How an Indonesian fisherman escaped 'slavery' in NZ

An Indonesian fisherman who's been living and working in New Zealand illegally for the past six years says he only did so out of desperation after being exploited both at sea and on land.

The man is about to fly home, but wanted to share his story in the hope it'll stop other migrant workers being mistreated.

For six years, Ahmad Roji Turah was working in the shadows. He first set foot in the country in 2011 when the Korean fishing vessel he'd been working on, the Melilla 203, docked in Christchurch.

It was a slave ship, according to Roji, who says he was abused, underpaid and forced to work long hours.

One time, after falling asleep on the job, he says his Korean boss put him to work in the freezer without warm clothes as a punishment.

Roji recounts abuse at the hands of his supervisor - both sexual and physical.

"Sometimes I do some mistake and he get angry, then he can kick or he can punch," he says.

He eventually left the vessel with other crew in protest.

Most were sent back to Indonesia in 2011 where they faced crippling fines for breaking their contract on the boat.

Fearing the same fate, Roji decided to stay here.

But with a young family to support, Roji says he did so out of desperation. He ended up getting a job at an asparagus farm. However once again he was exploited, paid only $100 for each 50-hour week.

Roji says it was either take the risk and run, or go home to face paying his Indonesian agent a $4000 fine for breaking his contract - it was money he simply didn't have.

But he now faces to prospect of being banned from New Zealand.

Roji's story is one of exploitation and indentured labour - a dream job in the waters off New Zealand that turned into a nightmare.

"I hope that by speaking out it will encourage other people to speak up if they're being exploited," he says.

The last time Roji saw his daughter, she was just six months old. After the work at the asparagas farm, he then went on to work as a painter in Auckland. He's now got enough cash to provide for his family, buy a plane ticket, and pay off his debts.

It's been a bewildering and at times frightening six years, but he says he's ready to step out of hiding and head home.