Time to act - New Zealand downgraded to ‘Tier 2’ in US TIP Report

07 Jul 2021 by Rebecca Kingi, Acting Head of Advocacy
Time to act - New Zealand downgraded to ‘Tier 2’ in US TIP Report

In the same week that a petition calling for a New Zealand Modern Slavery Act was presented to Parliament, New Zealand was downgraded to a ‘Tier 2’ ranking in the United States Trafficking in Persons (US TIP) report. 

The report found that the New Zealand Government “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” and that the Government’s efforts to combat trafficking “were not serious and sustained compared to the efforts during the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.” As a result of this, New Zealand was downgraded from Tier 1 to Tier 2. 

The Government needs to take urgent action to improve its response to human trafficking and address the failings identified in the report. 

What is the US TIP Report?
The US TIP report is a tool used by the US Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The Office analyses the actions taken by governments to address trafficking in persons within their country and ranks these efforts. The published report provides a publicly available deep dive into each government’s anti-trafficking efforts and their given ranking. 

Why did New Zealand receive a ‘Tier 2’ ranking?
The US TIP report acknowledged that some positive steps had been taken by the New Zealand Government, including the updated anti-trafficking national action plan in March 2021. However, it also listed many shortcomings and areas where action is needed. Concerns include “insufficient victim identification and protection efforts” as well as “a lack of understanding of trafficking” among service providers and officials. Further critique was made of the failure to sentence the majority of trafficking offenders to time in prison.  

How does this relate to the call for a Modern Slavery Act?
Many countries around the globe have laws in place to combat trafficking and modern slavery, including slavery within supply chains. New Zealand has no specific anti-slavery legislation, meaning that we as a nation are playing catch up as opposed to leading the way when it comes to addressing this. We have made some baby steps, but they fall short of what is required. The TIP report referred to some of the work done to date in New Zealand, including the online resources produced in July 2020 by Employment New Zealand, “encouraging businesses to adopt ethical work practices, including to address forced labour in supply chains.” Though it is positive that the Government has issued guidance, we believe that this is not enough to address the issue of slavery connected to and within New Zealand supply chains.  Legislation is urgently needed. The petition presented last week demonstrates that 37,000+ Kiwis feel the same. 

We support the recommendations made in the TIP report to address trafficking in New Zealand, including in relation to the identification and support of victims, collection of data and prosecution of perpetrators. We also consider that the introduction of modern slavery legislation that includes supply chain due diligence and reporting requirements would assist the New Zealand Government in combatting trafficking and therefore improving its ranking. The US TIP report highlights the efforts made by the UK in relation to their reporting requirements under the UK’s Modern Slavery Act:  “Furthermore, the government announced measures to strengthen reporting requirements under the Modern Slavery Act of 2015 (MSA) to ensure organizations’ operations and supply chains were free of trafficking, and it launched an assessment tool to assist public-sector organizations in coordinating with suppliers to improve protections for workers and reduce the risk of exploitation in supply chains.” It is concerning that while some nations are taking steps to strengthen existing provisions, we remain without legislation. 

We recommend the Government continue to progress its efforts in this area and prioritise the introduction of legislation. New Zealand has a unique opportunity to learn from existing global approaches and develop a truly robust and effective anti -trafficking and modern slavery response.  

Learn more about our work to get a Modern Slavery Act passed in New Zealand.

Rebecca Kingi, Acting Head of Advocacy, World Vision New Zealand