Government concerned about alleged slavery and human trafficking allegations

By Ivamere Nataro 17 December 2018, 12:00AM

The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour, Pulotu Lyndon Chu Ling, is concerned about the events involving a Samoan man who is facing charges of human trafficking in New Zealand.

 Viliamu Samu, also known as Joe Matamata, has been charged with human trafficking and slavery after he allegedly took Samoans from here to New Zealand to work illegally in the horticultural industry as far back as the early 1990s.

His arrest followed a two-year investigation by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and the New Zealand Police.

Hawkes Bay Today reported that Samu, 64, appeared in the Hastings District Court yesterday and entered no pleas. He was remanded on bail and is due to re-appear in the Napier District Court on 28 January 2019. 

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Pulotu said he was not privy to the details of the New Zealand investigation.

 “This is a concern for us because we try to ensure the interests of locals, who are contracted to work overseas, are safeguarded,” Pulotu told the Samoa Observer.

“Employers in New Zealand have the responsibility to look after the affairs of the workers coming to work for them. 

“When such actions occur and are against the contract and the seasonal workers programme, we ensure that the employers are penalised according to the law of that country.” 

Pulotu said there is a Liaison Officer present in New Zealand and also a High Commission that checks on Samoan workers. 

“We do follow ups regarding locals who have been contracted overseas to work under the seasonal workers programme.

“We have a liaison officer in New Zealand and he does follow up in accordance with the contracts that workers are given. 

“We work closely with the employers. Some employers prefer to do direct recruitment or others prefer for us to do the recruitment process. 

“So we screen the applications and identify the best and suitable people to travel and work overseas. We assist the applicants with helping them understand their contracts.”

Pulotu said they haven’t recorded such incidents in the recent past when the programme was transferred to them.

“Our priority is the locals who go and work overseas, we make sure that everything is done according to the paper works, their accommodation, food, pay etc. 

“We do our best, but of course there will be challenges, but we try our best to resolve the issues immediately. 

The public should take advantage of this opportunity, follow the contract and be smart with your decision making when you are working overseas, do not fall into the trap by enjoying the night life.”

The Acting C.E.O. of the Samoa Immigration, Elena Ainuu, was also unaware of the incident when contacted by the Samoa Observer, and referred the questions to the media officers of the Ministry. 

According to reports from New Zealand, the alleged victims say the man closely controlled and monitored their movements, including where they went and who they contacted.

The Samoan man, who is a New Zealand resident, is believed to have promised people well-paid jobs.

"Information collected during the joint investigation suggests that the man, who was seen as a respected member of his community in Samoa, targeted vulnerable people, who had limited education and literacy," Detective Inspector Mike Foster of Eastern District Police said.

"[The arrest] reflects how seriously both of our agencies take these types of allegations, and our commitment to combating Transnational Organised Crimes, including people trafficking," INZ assistant general manager Peter Devoy said.

He said the Samoan authorities provided valuable assistance during the investigation.

By Ivamere Nataro 17 December 2018, 12:00AM

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