Modern slavery and people trafficking

What is Modern Slavery?
Modern Slavery describes situations in which a victim is used and exploited for someone else’s benefit and gain. This is illegal and a serious crime. It involves a person using intimidation to get a victim to act how they want them to, such as threats, deception, emotional manipulation, acts of force, or an abuse of power. Victims can be of any ethnicity, gender, or age, including children, young people, or vulnerable adults. Modern slavery disregards fundamental human rights of a person.

What is People Trafficking?
People trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Perpetrators use coercion and/or deception to abduct, kidnap, transport, transfer, hold and move victims so they can be exploited. Victims most often come into New Zealand from overseas. It includes forced labour, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, forced marriages, forced prostitution, sweatshop labour, organ removal (harvesting), forced surrogacy, and other activities.

Migrant smuggling is a term sometimes confused with people trafficking. It involves a person who has freely consented to be brought into New Zealand as an irregular migrant and who is not subjected to coercion or deception.

Report an employer exploiting migrant workers
Employment New Zealand has a dedicated free phone number, 0800 200 008, and web form for anyone wishing to report migrant worker mistreatment or exploitation at the workplace. This reporting can be done by anyone who sees or suspects a breach of minimum employment rights.

If you have been a victim of these serious crimes
These crimes are traumatic experiences. Your safety is the highest priority. When you report it to police and it is investigated, you can start to get the right protection as well as support to help you begin your recovery.

Recovery will probably take some time. You may need some professional help for your physical and mental health, and general well-being. You might have injuries or a health condition that needs medical help and time to heal. Even if you haven’t been physically harmed, it is likely you will be psychologically affected by what has happened.

You might also need help with some practical matters such as finding accommodation, financial help, and employment. Step by step, with support, your life can move ahead positively.

Our Support Workers are available to support you personally, or as a family or whānau, for as long as you need us. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.

Report the crime to police so you can get protection, safety, and support. Your safety is their highest priority.

  • Call police on 111 immediately if you are a victim of modern slavery or people trafficking, or you suspect someone else is, or if you feel you are in danger and threatened.

  • Call the police non-emergency number on 105 or go online to report what has happened to you or others you know.   

  • Go to your local police station to talk to the person at the front counter and they will advise you about what to do. You may be able to speak to an officer straight away. Consider taking a support person with you. Find your closest police station here

Give a statement
The police will interview you and will ask you to give a statement to assist their investigations. Your information could later help in a criminal court case.

  • A police officer will write down or record what happened. After a violent or traumatic experience people’s memories can sometimes be a bit foggy or uncertain. Things that happened can seem like a blur. Just take your time and do your best.
  • What you say must be true. Giving police false information is a serious matter.
  • You’ll be asked to read it through to check it’s correct and then sign it to confirm it’s an accurate report of what happened to you.
  • Police may also ask for permission to take photographs of any injuries as evidence and to obtain copies of any medical records relating to the injuries.

Support the investigation
The police will investigate the case and will keep you updated on progress. They may need to interview you again.

Get medical help for any injuries or health conditions
If you have been injured or are very unwell, see a doctor, go to a hospital emergency department for help, or call an ambulance. Tell the medical professionals what you’ve been through and about any injuries or health conditions you have. It is important to have your physical health and mental health checked. Have the doctor prepare a report that can be shared with police.

Contact a support agency for immediate and ongoing help
It’s okay to ask for help. When you have been through such a traumatic situation, there is no shame in seeking and accepting help. Doing this can make a big difference and assist you to build a positive future. You deserve help and assistance. Recovering from such a serious crime is likely to take time and the support of others. You could call the following organisations.

  • Victim Support 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker, available 24/7.
  • Women’s Refuge free crisis line 0800 733 843, available 24/7.
  • Shakti for ethnic women free crisis line 0800 742584, available 24/7.

If there is to be a court case
Police will be in touch with you to talk about the court process and invite you to give a Victim Impact Statement. They will explain what giving evidence will involve if you are to be a court witness. Police will also let you know when and where you may be needed to give your evidence. Sometimes there can be delays in a court case, so they will let you know if that happens.

If the perpetrator is sent to prison, you may be entitled to be placed on the Victim Notification Register.

Find ways that to increase confidence in your personal safety
Use the tips police suggest in their booklet Keep Safe, Feel Safe. Taking these actions can help to increase your confidence in your personal safety and security, and that of your family and whānau.

Give yourself time to recover after this traumatic experience
See below for ways to cope with your reactions.

Everyone’s different and will react in their own way
Most people who have experienced slavery or trafficking have found it a traumatic experience and will experience a range of strong reactions. These are all normal reactions to an extreme situation, but they can be hard to manage and may continue for some time.

Common reactions include confusion, fear, being on edge/jumpy, feeling constantly unsafe, anger, resentment, guilt, shame, helplessness, and hopelessness. Many feel powerless. You might find it is hard to know who to trust. You might want to spend more time with other people or more time alone.

You may have disturbing thoughts or memories, nightmares, or flashbacks, as if frightening events were happening to you again. It might be hard to remember some things, or to concentrate. Often people try to avoid anything that brings back bad memories.

Physically you may find sleep is difficult or your appetite changes. Other physical reactions can include nausea, a tight chest, shakiness, body aching, or headaches. People may have become depressed or experience suicidal thoughts.

Victims say that being freed and protected from their situation brings a huge sense of relief and hope for their future, but the weeks that follow and adjusting back to life can still be very difficult. Your recovery will probably take some time.

These kinds of reactions are all normal responses
However, they might affect you more, and for longer, than you expect. It may be an up and down time for a while. See some tips below for coping with the impact of what’s happened.

Looking after yourself is important

Eat healthy food. Drink enough water. Keep up routines and get good rest and sleep, as best you can. Do some simple exercise. Take some slow, deep breaths. Spend time with people you can relax with, or with a pet. Spend time in nature. If you find keeping busy helps, find useful tasks to do. See a doctor if you’re unwell, extremely anxious, or are having difficulty sleeping. Draw on any cultural or spiritual beliefs you may have. Accept caring offers from others if that would help.

Talk about what happened
When you’re ready, talk to someone you trust about what happened, such as a trusted member of your family, whānau, a close friend, your doctor, a counsellor, a psypchologist, a respected elder, rangatira, or a Victim Suport Worker. If any aspects of your story are particularly disturbing, speak to a professional. Talking honestly about how things are can help release the stress and emotional tension inside.

More tips for coping with your reactions
To understand more about trauma and grief, and to learn ways to manage your reactions, please see:

Your reactions are normal responses to a traumatic event
Even though it may not feel like it now, they will gradually lessen in the weeks and months to come.

If they don’t lessen or get worse and disrupt your daily life and work, it is best to seek the help of a professional who has experience supporting people after trauma. Some people may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).If you have concerns, see your doctor, a counsellor, a psychologist, or ask your Support Worker about help that is available to you.

If your reactions trouble you

  • Visit your doctor. They can do a health check and support you with any ongoing issues, such as sleeplessness, anxiety, flashbacks, or depression.

  • Consider talking with a counsellor or psychologist. They can help you work through your reactions and the consequences the crime has had.

  • If you need to find a local doctor, counsellor, or psychologist, please click here.

We are here for you 24/7
Our Support Workers are available to support you personally, or as a family or whānau, for as long as you need us. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected to a Support Worker.

Our support is completely free and confidential, and available throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

What we can offer
Our Support Workers can support you with:

  • someone to listen, talk with, and support you to cope through trauma and loss
  • help to understand your rights and make informed choices
  • information and help to answer your questions
  • help to access local support services and counselling to suit your situation
  • someone to assist and support you at any court trials, hearings, and dealing with police and other government agencies
  • help to prepare Victim Impact Statements and attend family group or restorative justice conferences
  • financial assistance for victims of serious crime.

We are committed to providing quality support to strengthen the mana and well-being of all those affected by modern slavery and people trafficking.

If you have English as a second language
If you require support in your first language, Victim Support can use Ezispeak to connect with an interpreter over the phone. Call us on 0800 842 846 and let us know. We will try to match you to a Support Worker who speaks your language.

Other useful websites and information

Immigration New Zealand - Information about Migrant Exploitation and the Protection Work Visa

Employment New Zealand - Information on Migrant Exploitation


Coping with Trauma
When you are Grieving
Dealing with flashbacks