Migrant workers in New Zealand are at risk of working in slavery-like conditions, a Human Rights Commission diversity forum has heard.
Organisers of the two-day forum, which finished in Christchurch yesterday, said the treatment of refugee and migrant workers in this country was a “top human rights priority”.
In a discussion about the Christchurch rebuild, speaker Belinda Bonzon-Liu said some Filipino migrant workers were facing conditions akin to bonded labour.
Saddled with loans for recruitment fees of up to $20,000, and fearful of deportation if they complained to employers, some were trapped in substandard work, terrible living conditions and mounting debt.
“Do we have slavery in New Zealand?” Bonzon-Liu asked the crowd.
“People become bonded labourers by taking on big loans, and they are not able to pay for it, no matter how hard they work.”
Filipinos taking on enormous loans to come to New Zealand fitted modern definitions of bonded labour, she said.
“It is a form of indentured servitude born of the need for cheap labour and is defined as slavery by the International Labour Organisation.”