Candlelight vigil sheds light on modern slavery

A candlelight vigil in the Octagon on July 29 at 6pm aims to shed light on the barbarity of modern day slavery and the trafficking of people.

Organised by Sister Noreen McGrath, of Talitha Kum Dunedin, it is timed to coincide with the United Nations world day against trafficking in persons the following day.

‘‘We are doing the vigil in order to make this prominent,’’ Sr McGrath said.

More than 40million people were being trafficked worldwide, and numbers had been rising during the Covid-19 pandemic, she said.

‘‘It is happening in New Zealand.’’

The United States 2021 Trafficking in Persons report released last month downgraded New Zealand from Tier 1 to Tier 2 meaning the country did not fully meet minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, although it was making significant efforts to do so.

The report noted human traffickers exploited domestic and foreign victims in New Zealand. Foreign men and women from South and East Asia, the Pacific and Latin America were vulnerable to forced labour in industries including agricultural, dairy, construction, viticulture, food service, liquor retail, technology, hospitality, transport, and domestic service.

The government had ‘‘taken steps’’ towards passing modern slavery legislation, Sr McGrath said.

Cases of people exploiting others include Joseph Matamata, of Hastings, who in March 2020 was convicted on 10 human trafficking and 13 slavery charges and was sentenced to 11 years in jail and ordered to pay $183,000 in reparations to his victims.

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