Auckland cafe owners jailed for migrant exploitation

16 May 2019

On Friday 10 May, former Auckland sweet shop owners were jailed for migrant exploitation.  Mohammed Atiqul Islam and Nafisa Ahmed were jointly charged by Immigration New Zealand with several offences (including human trafficking).

Whilst the couple were found not guilty of human trafficking, they were found guilty of migrant exploitation and sentenced to four years and five months and two years and six months imprisonment, respectively. 

The offending spanned two years, involved five victims, and was described by District Court Judge Gibson during the sentencing hearing: The Jury rightly found you guilty. In some ways you were shamelessly so. You paid your employees $6 per hour, encouraged workers to breach their visas, confiscated the passports of the chefs immediately after their arrival in New Zealand. In the end, the workers resorted to the New Zealand Police to get their passports back. I have no doubt the passports were taken and withheld for the purpose of controlling your employees.” 

The maximum sentence on the exploitation, false and misleading information and aiding and abetting charges was seven years' imprisonment and/or a fine up to $100,000.  Trafficking in persons is punishable under the Crimes Act with imprisonment for up to 20 years, a fine of $500,000 or both.  This case should make it clear that migrant exploitation is a serious criminal offence.   

Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment have provided a helpful list of what migrant exploitation may include:

  • Withholding an employee’s passport, travel documents, or money.

  • Underpayment (or non-payment) of wages (this often includes promises to “pay later”).

  • Requiring an employee to pay their own wages.

  • Forcing an employee to work long hours, with no time off for holidays, or to seek medical care, and no over-time payments.

  • Unlawful deductions from wages e.g. to pay off debt, or a job “premium”.

  • Bullying, intimidating or threatening behaviour or comments such as threats of violence, jail or deportation.

  • Unacceptable accommodation arrangements.

We would like to remind our members that migrant exploitation is anathema to our values and a breach of our code of conduct.

Disclaimer: the content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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