Four more Auckland properties under investigation for allegedly housing exploited migrants

Since Newshub revealed on Monday the alleged exploitation of dozens of migrants living in a single house, Immigration officials have begun investigating four more Auckland properties housing dozens more.

In Papakura, at least 20 more migrants were shoved into a grotty, run-down three-bedroom property. There was an overflowing rubbish bin, one toilet, and one shower. The garage was being used to hang clothes.

One room was only about three by two metres, but there were five people crammed in there. It's a real squeeze to get through the door because of how much the beds are piled up.

In another room measuring about four by five metres, six people were jammed in there. 

Then there's the bathroom. There's only one in the entire house and Newshub was told there's a line to use it every morning.

But then there's what you can't see. There's a smell of sewage from underneath the home and one of the occupants said the plumbing is broken.

The men in this house sought a better life through the Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme. Instead, they're facing an entirely different reality. They've turned to Union Network of Migrants president Mandeep Bela for help.

"So workers are waiting to receive work and be paid, because they are ready, willing and able to be able to do that work," he told Newshub. "They hold licences to be able to work as drivers but this employer seems to be not providing that work and asking them to just wait."

Back in Papakura, the fridge is nearly empty and food is being prepared on the floor as dozens of men cook on a single stove. Among them is Gurbinder Singh, who was brought here as a truck driver. Months after arriving, he's had no work.

"We have no hope anymore. We have been trying to contact the companies, but they no longer respond to us," Gurbinder said. "If they do then they say that you should wait, you should wait, you will get the job, you will get the job but no one is holding our hand, no job has come through. We are sitting in darkness doing nothing in the room."

He's just one worker who signed an employment agreement with a New Zealand recruiter called CPL. 

Four more Auckland properties under investigation for allegedly housing exploited migrants
Photo credit: Newshub.

Newshub managed to talk to CPL director Ross Berry on Tuesday afternoon, but he said he couldn't answer Newshub's questions.

"At the moment, I've got three or four things happening, right. We're uplifting those guys out there, that house, at the moment," he said.

"We cannot comment at the moment. Sadly, at this stage, we're taking advice at the moment.

"Ring me back, mate, you can start recording then," Berry concluded, before hanging up the call.

Newshub has obtained a video message Berry sent to frustrated employees.

"My message simply is to you boys thank you, thank you for sticking with me. Look, I muck up, and I make mistakes, but you guys it's taken too long. It's taken us too long to put you into a job," he said.

Bela said all up he's heard from 60 drivers waiting for work from the company after separately paying agents overseas tens of thousands of dollars for job offers.

The accredited employer work visa scheme was brought in last year to boost the skilled workforce while stopping exploitation. But critics said it's done the opposite because it ties workers to one employer.

"We're seeing an explosion of exploitation and fraud at the moment, which people like myself in the industry put solely down to this new accredited employer work visa policy and the flaws in that policy," said immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont.

Immigration Minister Andrew Little admitted that things are bad. Asked if this situation is human trafficking, he said: "Yes, almost certainly."

But he won't commit to a review, instead, he hit back at critics.

"The so-called immigration experts I've heard of have got their facts wrong about when the increase in migrant worker exploitation complaints started," he said. "There is no relationship between that visa, or any visa, and the increase in migrant worker exploitation complaints."