Facebook used to recruit illegal migrant workers to New Zealand
A human trafficking scam that's carried on undetected for years is claimed to be using Facebook to lure migrants into jobs paying less than $10 an hour on New Zealand orchards.
Investigations have been launched after a Filipino man, who paid his first month's wages as commission to an offshore organiser, raised the alert.
First Union organiser Dennis Maga, who knows the Filipino orchard worker who has since returned home, said he was looking into the case with assistance from the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
"This is some sort of human trafficking because the orchard managers are consciously targeting those vulnerable migrants, luring them to work in that industry, knowing that they are quite desperate.
"Based on the information we found out from a friend of ours, who actually worked in one orchard company in Waikato, we realised that this is quite systematic because it's also actually happening in other orchard companies in the North Island."
The orchard worker who spoke up had been friends with another Filipino man who had worked on an orchard in New Zealand back in 2011.
That man had returned home and began recruiting using Facebook, and was now operating out of South Korea, Mr Maga said.
"These are not recruitment agents," he said. "They don't have a company, they're not registered."
"What they do is just simply using Facebook to communicate with the orchard managers and recommend their friends or other recruits to come here under the guise of visitors' visa."
Mr Maga said the web extended to a "handful" of local Indian people in Waikato who collected a cut of the workers' pay to ferry them to the orchards at weekends.
At one orchard he said he had been told of 20 or 30 people being delivered for work this way, while others lived on the orchard in a crowded house or a caravan with broken windows.
News of the scam comes after Faroz Ali yesterday became the first person convicted of people-trafficking in this country, and after RNZ reported on widespread scamming of migrants for fake jobs in New Zealand.
A warning about fruit-picking scams has also gone out in Australia, after 34 Malaysians were locked up in Sydney's Villawood Detention Centre after being caught working illegally in jobs they paid agents in Malaysia to arrange.
Mr Maga said the orchard scam in New Zealand targeted those on visitor visas who were not allowed to work by law, and international students struggling to survive on the 20 hours of paid work they were allowed to do each week.
He believed all those involved knew it was illegal.
MBIE has been asked to comment on the case.