During Human Trafficking awareness month (January), we wanted to alert you to how you can make a difference in New Zealand for modern slaves overseas, and how to identify those being exploited here in New Zealand.

While New Zealand is not a high-risk country for human trafficking, it does occur. You can read more about this further down. However, there are also ways you can help make a difference for those caught in modern slavery overseas, living in Aotearoa, New Zealand. One of the main ways, apart from giving to charities like Tearfund working to combat modern slavery, is through your purchasing power. Those bargains you come across, whether they are clothes or food, can have a story of exploitation behind them. So how can you be sure that the people producing these goods are not being exploited? A general rule of thumb is if the bargain seems too good to be true, it’s worth digging deeper to see if the item has been ethically produced. Here are some tools to help you.

Tearfund’s Ethical Fashion Guide

Tearfund’s Ethical Fashion Guide and this year’s Covid Fashion Guide can help you identify fashion companies that are working to ensure those in their supply chains are treated fairly, from the raw materials, through to the finished garment. This handy guide can be downloaded to your phone from our website for easy access. Get the guide here. Over the years Tearfund and Baptist World Australia have been producing the Ethical Fashion Guide, there has been a massive change among many companies to identify and reduce human exploitation in their supply chains. This has been brought about by consumer pressure from those using the guide and deciding to buy from top-rated companies and advocating for change from companies that have low ratings.

Ethical-Fashion.pngEvery time you spend money, you are casting a vote for the change you want in the world. 

Ethical Food

But what about the exploitation hidden in our food? A lot of New Zealanders are familiar with ethically produced foods such as chocolate/cocoa products, coffee and bananas. Many choose ethically traded brands even if they are slightly dearer. Again, this has been brought about by awareness, advocacy and consumer purchasing power. But what about foods like seafood or even some of the ingredients used in these products?

Sugar is a common ingredient in most food products. How can you ensure they have used slave-free ingredients? When it comes to sugar, look out for certifications such as Fairtrade, World Fair Trade, UTZ and Bonsucro.

Fishing is one of the biggest labour exploiters and often use child labour. Unlike sugar and the other products we mentioned, when it comes to fish, there are no certifications to alert you. You have to ask companies about labour in their supply chain instead. For farmed fish and prawns, this includes asking them how their feed species were caught. The good news is that all New Zealand-sourced shellfish is slave-free as is Sealord tuna, and Brunswick sardines. Countdown’s is working towards making their own branded fish, and other products containing cocoa and sugar—slave-free.

Fortunately, there is a website that has all the research and handy shopping guides to navigate this minefield. It is called Just Kai.

 Although we said human trafficking isn’t a huge problem here, there are ways you can help if you suspect someone is being exploited. Below is a list of some of the tell-tale signs.
  • Living with their employer
  • Locks on doors and windows
  • Poor living conditions
  • Multiple people in a cramped space
  • Inability to speak to individual alone
  • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
  • Their employer is holding identity documents
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Submissive or fearful
  • Unpaid or paid very little
  • Under 18 and in prostitution
Often victims will have had their passport confiscated if they are from overseas and they are often threatened with deportation or harm to themselves or family members if they do not comply with the wishes of those exploiting them. You can report these situations to the New Zealand Immigration department, or in situations of worker exploitation, to Employment New Zealand.

If you would like to support our work in combating modern slavery overseas, you can learn more or donate here.

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