Human trafficking NZ issue too: expert

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Speaking . . . Dr Rebecca Miller, Immigration New Zealand programme manager for people smuggling and trafficking in persons, will speak in Dunedin tomorrow night. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Human trafficking is not just a problem for other countries, a New Zealand human-trafficking specialist says.

Dr Rebecca Miller, who works as the programme manager for Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ) people smuggling and trafficking in persons department, will speak about her work at St Patrick’s Community Centre at 7pm tonight (Friday).

Dr Miller said she would speak about her work for INZ and other international anti-trafficking organisations, as well as dispelling the belief that trafficking did not happen in New Zealand.

“Trafficking is a global crime that affects all countries,” she said.

In her current role for two years, she had previously worked for the Bali Process’ regional support office, a forum comprising 45 countries and three international organisations that worked on trafficking and people smuggling.

“It’s about people exploiting .. individuals for a profit.”

She highlighted the first successful trafficking prosecution by Immigration NZ last year, where an individual was found guilty of trafficking 15 workers and sentenced to more than nine years’ jail and ordered to pay $30,000 to the victims.

“That was an enormous achievement for New Zealand.”

More than 5000 hours had gone into the investigation, she said.

“It is something we’re taking very seriously.”

She got involved with anti-trafficking work after completing her master’s degree in Canada in 2000 and taking up a six-month internship with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

“That experience has sort of shaped my career since.”

Many trafficking victims were unwilling to identify themselves as trafficked people, especially as they could face stigma and have large debts to pay off after paying to work in another country, she said.

It could be hard “on the surface” to determine whether it was a case of people smuggling or trafficking, as both often involved paying large sums of money to move to another country, she said.

Her talk would look at her work, why people “don’t just leave” a trafficking situation and how to support people if it was suspected they were in a trafficking situation, Dr Miller said.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions around trafficking.”

Dr Rebecca Miller will speak at St Patrick’s Community Centre, 42 Macandrew Rd, at 7pm tonight (Friday, April 7).