Second court appearance for man charged with migrant exploitation

Media Release from Immigration New Zealand

08 Oct 2020

A Tauranga man made his second court appearance on migrant exploitation charges this week.

Jafar Kurisi has been charged under the Immigration Act 2009 with exploitation of an employee. This carries a maximum penalty of up to seven years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $100,000.

The joint investigation by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) supported by New Zealand Police and the Labour Inspectorate, was launched in July after Zespri alerted INZ to allegations that two contracting companies were exploiting migrant workers.

“Information provided to INZ from different sources, including a comprehensive file from the kiwifruit industry allowed us to start building a picture of alleged worker exploitation by contractors in the Kiwifruit industry in the Bay of Plenty,” General Manager of Verification and Compliance Stephen Vaughan said.

“Exploitation of vulnerable migrants will not be tolerated in New Zealand and we are fortunate to be working closely with the kiwifruit industry to ensure temporary workers are treated with respect and have the same employment conditions that all workers in New Zealand are entitled too.”

Mr Vaughan is commending those who brought the case to the attention of authorities and says INZ will continue to investigate all instances reported with the aim of prosecuting the organisers who benefit financially from the exploitation.

Zespri CEO Dan Mathieson says the kiwifruit industry is totally committed to protecting people who work in kiwifruit and ensuring an industry free from exploitation.

“While the vast majority of employers in the kiwifruit industry care for their people, a small minority fail to do so. That’s unacceptable and we’re committed to holding them to account and to the continued development of robust compliance frameworks to help us do so.

“This includes vetting contractors before they’re allowed to work in the industry, regular audits, and a commitment to investigating concerns and to taking action against employers who fail to meet our standards.

“This case demonstrates our commitment. After New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) was alerted to concerns over the treatment of a group of migrant workers we worked with our partners to carry out a thorough investigation and passed that information to INZ. We acknowledge the swift action taken by INZ as well as their ongoing commitment to protecting people in workplaces in New Zealand.”

Mr Mathieson says those people who have been impacted are being supported by the industry, including being provided with temporary employment with local orchards.

“People who choose to work in our industry are a critical part of our success and we want them to succeed too. Alongside the Government and NZKGI we will continue to do everything we can to combat exploitation of workers and create an industry where people can thrive.”

Mr Vaughan say investigations are continuing and more charges are possible.