By Mel Fernandez
A Duterte-style clenched fist is being thrust squarely at OFW exploiters in New Zealand and overseas. The message to these wrong doers is – desist or face the wrath of the community plus a blitzkrieg by a host of government agencies. The bad guys are on notice – they will be exposed, shamed publicly and punished. In the process it is hoped that justice will be served for the aggrieved parties.
In recent months the Philippine Embassy in New Zealand, the NZ Police, the Inland Revenue Department, Immigration NZ, Education NZ, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Commerce Commission, NGOs, Unionists, community groups and even mainstream media outlets have been working in concert to stem the tide of rampant OFW exploitation that has left heaps of Filipinos out of pocket and often in dire straits.
“Migrant exploitation is a multi-faceted and complex issue that requires a multifaceted and coordinated response,” said Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr. Jackie Blue.
“We are keen to see that these new measures (announced by the Minister of Immigration) are just the start of actions aimed at addressing what is a significant problem – particularly in our dairy, horticultural, hospitality and international education industries.”
Fortunately, in the war against OFW exploiters it is the Philippine Embassy that is leading the charge. The Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand, Jesus S Domingo, who has just completed about ten months in this country, is known for his ‘hands-on approach in dealing with issues’.
He told FMN that: “The Embassy is working closely with the NZ Government, its Consulates in Auckland and Christchurch and NZ and Filipino Community NGOs (including Migrante Aotearoa) to combat abuses against OFWs, particularly with regards to Labour Recruitment, Education Trafficking and Balikbayan Box Crime.
“Besides providing assistance to the victims of Balikbayan Box Crime the Embassy is developing a Code of Conduct for providers of this service. In the pipeline is the setting-up of a website/bulletin board which will allow customers to air their concerns and warn others of shoddy service.
“In the area of education trafficking the Embassy is lobbying with the NZ Government and counterpart Philippine government agencies to punish erring Immigration Advisers (IAs) and the Schools which have defrauded students and to push for the regulation of ‘Education Advisers’ (EAs).
“Like for Balikbayan Box Crime we are developing Codes of Conduct for the concerned Schools, IAs and EAs and a Complaint Website. We are meeting with and assisting many of the victims and asking for their help to identify the perpetrators – Schools, IAs and EAs.
“Regarding general assistance to Filipino workers, the Embassy and Consulates continue to work closely and are in dialogue with the NZ Government, Employers, Unions, worker groups, etc. to follow up the Philippine Government’s request to establish a residential Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) in NZ.”
Jail sentence for errant trader
In a Commerce Commission case, Vikram Mehta, owner of mobile trader Flexi Buy Limited (Flexi Buy), was recently sentenced in the Auckland District Court to two years imprisonment after taking money from customers without intending to supply the goods as promised.
It is the first jail sentence handed down in a prosecution initiated by the Commerce Commission.
Mehta was convicted under the Crimes Act 1961 as being a party to Flexi Buy’s conduct. He was the sole shareholder and director of the company during the period of its offending.
“The Commission has successfully pursued a number of cases against mobile traders, but this was a particularly serious one and that’s why we took Crimes Act action against Mr Mehta personally,” said Commissioner Anna Rawlings.
“The Crimes Act charges are consistent with other cases we have pursued where traders have failed to supply goods or services that their customers have paid for. All traders need to know that the Commission can and will take this action where it’s justified,” said Rawlings.
“The sentence sends a strong message that there can be serious consequences for traders who take customers’ money without delivering the promised goods,” said Ms. Rawlings.
Editor: Mel Fernandez is the Editor of Migrant News www.migrantnews.nz, one of the first ethnic newspapers in New Zealand, around since 1991.