Business leaders and Government officials met in Auckland today to identify how they can collaborate to fight modern-day slavery and human trafficking.
Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway and Icebreaker chairman Rob Fyfe hosted the closed-door meeting in Orakei which looked at the issue here and across the Asia-Pacific region.
Lees-Galloway said the meeting was just the beginning of the conversation on the issue.
"It's clear that we have a problem with migrant exploitation in New Zealand, the enforcement agencies tell me that wherever they go looking for it, they find it," the minister said.
He said there were several investigations on modern-day slavery cases underway.
Lees-Galloway said the way forward was for Government, businesses, unions, churches and non-government organisations to work together.
He said businesses were enthusiastic in tackling the problem and demonstrated that New Zealand wants to be a leader.
Tougher legislation and more resourcing into enforcement agencies were also possible options, he said.
New Zealand has been identified as a destination for human trafficking by the US Government since 2004, but it was only in 2016 that the first trafficking conviction was secured.
Faroz Ali, 46, was found guilty by a jury in the High Court of Auckland of multiple charges of human trafficking and exploitation.
Unlike the US or most other countries, human trafficking cases here are investigated by Immigration New Zealand and not the police.
"Modern slavery is an umbrella term used to refer to practices such as servitude, forced labour, forced marriage, the sale and exploitation of children, and debt bondage and, in combination with human trafficking has escalated to become one of the largest human rights issues of our time," Fyfe said.
More than 40 million people around the world are trapped in some form of slavery, Fyfe said, and the issues directly affect those here in New Zealand.
The Crimes Act was amended in 2015 to include domestic trafficking, to cover exploitation and deception of workers within New Zealand borders and not just offshore.
Last month an Auckland Filipino restaurateur was jailed and her partner sentenced to home detention over charges of exploitation.
The judge, in sentencing the co-owners of 3 Kings Food, said the conditions of the victims were "not far removed from a modern-day form of slavery".
In 2016, the owners of Indian restaurant chain Masala were also sentenced on exploitation charges of paying staff $3 an hour and working them more than 60 hours a week.
However, because these cases were not being labelled as trafficking, the offenders were not charged under trafficking offences and the victims are not classified as victims of trafficking, it is difficult to get an estimate on how widespread the trafficking situation is in New Zealand.