NZ enquiry into foreign trawler worker visas uncovers issues
A recent New Zealand ministerial enquiry into visas issued to foreign trawler workers has revealed that 97 are still unpaid and stresses concerns about abuse of the visas.
Figures supplied on the request of the New Zealand Labour Party by Immigration Minister Nathan Guy revealed that over 700 visas were granted over the past year, even although Immigration New Zealand had concerns that the visas might be abused. In addition, the figures showed that 97 workers have not yet been paid in spite of government promises that they would receive the NZ basic wage.
Last May, the government reacted to labour, safety and overfishing concerns by banning all foreign-flagged deep-sea fishing trawlers from the country’s ports. Six of the 97 unpaid Indonesian workers were allowed to remain in the country to give evidence at the enquiry of sexual and physical abuse which caused them to walk off their ship along with 26 other workers.
The banned chartered trawlers have been given a period of four years to be reflagged as New Zealand-registered ships and their owners will need to prove they meet national practices and standards. Industrial relations spokesperson for Labour Darien Fenton stated that no checks and balances were in place to prevent human rights abuses of workers on the boats.
According to Guy, forensic audits are taking place and a more stringent code of practice is being adopted. He stressed that New Zealand’s reputation is on the line as regards rules for foreign fishing vessels using the country’s ports. The fishing crews form part of 1744 foreign workers who have received visas in 2012, despite high unemployment in the country.
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