News centre

Investigation underway into the exploitation of Indian and Bangladeshi nationals in Auckland

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has commenced an in-depth and comprehensive investigation into the alleged case of Indian and Bangladeshi nationals who arrived in New Zealand with the promise of employment that didn’t eventuate.

17 August 2023
4 minute read

Led by Immigration Compliance and Investigation but expected to encompass other areas of MBIE such as the Labour Inspectorate, officers have begun talking to the 115 Indian and Bangladeshi nationals who were living in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in 6 houses across Auckland suburbs.

Given this is a complex active investigation it will take time to gather all of the evidence. There are restrictions on what details can be shared publicly in order to not potentially jeopardise the outcomes of the investigation, or any subsequent prosecutions.

What we can share

  • Our investigators have spoken with 115 Indian and Bangladeshi nationals who arrived in New Zealand on Accredited Employment Work Visas (AEWV) with the promise of employment when they arrived. Individuals have indicated they paid a substantial amount for the visa and a job, yet most are still waiting for any paid work.
  • These individuals were accommodated in properties that were not fit to house so many people. The conditions of the accommodation were unhygienic, unsanitary, and inappropriate.
  • Some individuals have been in New Zealand for several months and some have more recently arrived.
  • Investigations into the employers who brought the individuals to New Zealand continue but we can advise that there are several people and companies of interest pertaining to this case.
  • Our first priority was to ensure the health and wellbeing of all these individuals which included ensuring each property had food, water, electricity, as well as connecting them with local agencies who can provide pastoral care and support.

What happens now

  • Investigators will speak to a number of witnesses, including the individuals involved to gather evidence and build a complete picture of the situation and gather evidence.
  • The Indian High Commission has been engaged to provide support to their nationals.
  • MBIE is working with the individuals to help them understand their options. This may include applying for a Migrant Exploitation Work Visa, obtaining employment with a new employer, or making suitable arrangements to leave.
  • INZ is working to contact offshore visa holders who are linked to this case to notify them not to travel until they receive further contact.

About AEWV

  • The Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) is a temporary work visa category which improves our ability to detect and respond to exploitation. We have a new system of post-accreditation checks throughout the accreditation period and the ability to suspend or revoke an employer’s accreditation if breaches of accreditation standards are found.
  • As at 14 August 2023, 80,576 Accredited Employer Work Visas have been approved since the new visa opened in July 2022, and there are approximately 27,892 accredited employers.
  • The vast majority of employers are doing the right thing and treat their migrant workers fairly and well. They are relying on much-needed workers from overseas to fill positions that have been hard to fill within the domestic market. MBIE actively monitors employers and will take action where there are concerns.
  • Migrant exploitation and immigration scams are unfortunately not new; Immigration New Zealand observed this under the old Essential Skills Work Visa system, and this has not started happening as a result of AEWV. Under the Essential Skills visa, checks were only done on the employer at the point when a migrant applied for a visa.

About migrant exploitation

Migrant exploitation - Employment New Zealand website

  • The Labour Inspectorate monitors and enforces compliance with employment standards, such as requirements around minimum wage, holiday pay, leave entitlements, wage deductions, and record keeping.
  • The role of Immigration Investigations is the investigation of criminal breaches of the Immigration Act 2009 and relevant Crimes Act 1961 sections.
  • Penalties for employers who do not comply with employment or immigration laws include prosecution and employers being stood-down or permanently banned from supporting migrants on work visas.
  • The Labour Inspectorate maintains a list of employers who are subject to a stand-down for breaches of employment standards and INZ checks this list when employers apply for accreditation to hire migrants.
  • The Labour Inspectorate prioritises investigation of cases involving serious worker exploitation, non-compliant business models, systemic breaches and where the law requires clarification in the Courts to be effectively enforced. Serious worker exploitation includes repeated breaches and failure to meet employment standards primarily minimum wage, unlawful deductions, not paying holiday pay, not maintaining records.

Recognising immigration scams

Protect yourself from immigration scams

If you are a migrant working in New Zealand, and think you are being exploited, do not be afraid to ask Immigration New Zealand for help. We can help you and take action if needed. Cases can be reported to MBIE’s contact centre on 0800 20 90 20. Alternatively, they can be reported to police or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via the online Crimestoppers form.