Exploited migrant worker becomes homeless | The Jackal

14 Sept 2017

Exploited migrant worker becomes homeless

What on earth is this country coming to? We used to be a nation that cared about it’s workers, even building thousands of state houses to ensure a healthy workforce and providing a safety net when things went wrong.

We used to have better laws and a functioning system that ensured they were actually upheld.

Unfortunately that’s no longer the case. The current government of New Zealand now has very little willingness or ability to combat things like modern day slavery.

Today, Radio NZ reported:

Migrant worker describes 'modern day slavery' scam

A migrant worker who describes himself as a modern-day slave says he is blowing the whistle on exploitation he believes is widespread.

The man, who RNZ is naming only as Danny, came from Sri Lanka with his wife in 2011.

Like thousands of others, they came for a better life. For five years he worked and studied and in 2016 was offered a well-paid job in Auckland and a clear path to permanent residency within 12 months.

The couple decided it was a good move, but Danny said it soon became clear he had signed up for a scam that involved a money merry-go-round to fool immigration authorities.

Danny admits his hands aren't clean but he now wants to shed light on the exploitation of migrant workers in Auckland.

He was introduced to the boss of a small Auckland business by his brother-in-law, he said, who then told him he had to pay $25,000 in cash to secure the job and then get his residency.

He said his brother-in-law, his new employer and an immigration lawyer involved in the scam all got a cut of the money.

A few weeks into the job his brother-in-law told him he would not be paid, but would have to give the appearance to immigration authorities he had a legitimate job.

Danny said in order to do that, his wife drove a taxi 12 hours a day, six days a week. She then withdrew cash from her account, which was passed to Danny's employer, who then paid Danny a portion into his bank account as a sham wage.

Danny said as well as his main job he had to do other work such as drive his employer's son and paint his house.

"He's asking me to clean his house, bring his kid - I had to bring him from the station and I have to pick him [up from] some places. Clean up house and gardening. Sometimes I have to do painting and stuff, whole house.

"I felt like a New Zealand modern day slavery," Danny said.

He stayed at the job for almost 10 months, but said eventually the couple's strained finances and the long hours he and his wife worked put stress on their relationship and they broke up, he said.

Danny said without his wife's taxi work, he couldn't keep up the payments to his boss, so when his employer demanded another $35,000 he walked away without paying.

"I felt like what they're doing was wrong and I prefer more dignity. Residency is good but if you lost your soul or if you lost your heart, what's the point? You're like an empty man.

"You become more like, sell anything to do any type of stuff, you're more like a criminal, you know? That's the craziness of most of the people's mind - they do anything for residency."

Danny said he knew what he was doing was wrong but he trusted his brother-in-law, who got his residency in a similar arrangement with his boss.

RNZ has heard a secret recording Danny made of a conversation with his former employer where they talk about the scam.

His lawyer said they went to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) to lay a complaint and offered the recording as evidence of Danny's exploitation, but authorities wouldn't investigate and told them complainants should come forward at the first instance of exploitation.

Disgusting! Ruling out an investigation in cases where the complainant doesn’t come forward quickly enough is a sure sign that authorities simply don’t care if migrant workers are being exploited. But what makes this particular case so much worse is that the complainant has been left out in the cold.

Danny is now homeless, jobless, and without a valid visa. While he waits for a decision, he volunteers at the Salvation Army and is being supported by a church, which is helping to feed and house him.

He said he now wanted to shine the light on the issue of exploitation.

"So many exploitations are going on at the moment, I have heard. That's why I want to bring this story to the public because I need to make sure the New Zealanders - the true owners of this country - they don't want to see those things happening on their ground."

What I’d like to know is why hasn't the National led government done more to combat modern day slavery? After all, stories about migrant workers being exploited simply didn’t occur here before National gained power in 2008.

A lack of any proper government response to things like forced labour, human trafficking and child exploitation means those types of terrible things are increasing by around 17% in New Zealand each year.

It appears that the growing slavery problem in New Zealand is because of a lack of proper governance. National have failed to uphold people’s basic human rights, which has allowed more exploitation to occur. This means our international standing has been affected, with New Zealand recently being downgraded in the Global Slavery Index ranking.

The National party should therefore be voted out at this coming election.