Fijian woman charged with human trafficking to New Zealand

A woman has been arrested and charged with trafficking Fijian people who were brought to New Zealand and "heavily" exploited.

The 31-year-old Fijian citizen's arrest in Suva on Thursday was the result of a joint investigation by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and Fijian Police.

She appeared in the Suva Magistrate Court on Saturday facing a number of serious crimes including human trafficking.

An arrest warrant is to be issued for her sister in Australia.

It's alleged the two women organised work and travel for 17 Fijian trafficking victims who arrived in Auckland between April and August 2014, reports The Fiji Times.

A Fiji Police spokesperson says the sisters operated a travel agency in Suva and allegedly placed a newspaper ad about employment opportunities in New Zealand.

Victims were promised visa or work permits and had money taken from them to supposedly pay for their visa applications.

INZ says the victims were "heavily exploited". Fiji Police says they suffered forced labour, unfavourable weather and living conditions and minimal or no wages.  

The joint New Zealand-Fiji investigation was in relation to the Faroz Ali case in 2016.

Ali was found guilty of 15 human trafficking charges and other immigration offences in New Zealand's first successful human trafficking conviction. He was sentenced to nine years and six months in prison at the High Court in Auckland.

INZ assistant general manager Peter Devoy says the arrest of the Fijian woman shows the country is committed to ending people trafficking with the cooperation of international authorities. 

"The excellent work completed by INZ staff and our Fijian colleagues has allowed for these charges to be brought by the Fiji Police," he says. "I hope the victims can take some comfort from this fact."

INZ has developed specialist guides to help migrant workers and employers understand minimum employment rights as well as health and safety, workplace communication and where they can go to find further support.

Any suspected exploitation can be anonymously reported to CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111.