Chinese worker’s absconding charge dropped but still to be deported

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Construction workers
Ten Chinese men are set to be deported for working illegally at Auckland construction sites. Image: 123rf/RNZ

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

The Chinese worker who left police custody on the way to the airport on Thursday night had a charge of absconding – which carries a maximum sentence of five years – withdrawn when he appeared in the Auckland District Court today.

The worker, who was said by his lawyer to be in a very distressed state after 10-days in custody, had opened an unlocked door of the patrol car on the way to the airport and got out.

He had hoped to recover lost property and money he was owed. He then walked for seven hours’ confused and disoriented before speaking to an early morning exerciser who spoke Mandarin and they agreed that he should surrender himself to the police again, according to a statement by Unite Union.

The worker’s lawyer, Matt Robson, who represents nine of the 10 Chinese workers detained, said he had suffered migrant labour exploitation and he should be released to allow the allegations to be investigated.

However, the magistrate said he had no power to do so and the worker was remanded in police custody again on outstanding immigration matters.

The worker asked to speak to the court and begged to be able to work in New Zealand so that he could earn back the large amount of money paid in fees to get here and provide for his parents, wife and child back in China.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has said this case was not one of trafficking. The person he had delegated the authority to make this decision reportedly did so after examining the email trail documents for 20 minutes.

False promises, huge fees
But the government’s own website on trafficking includes the circumstances of these workers who were recruited and made false promises in China and paid huge fees for fake visas that they thought would be work visas and were then told they could change from their visitor status once they arrived, which was a lie.

At the top of the site page is a summary statement:

“The United Nations defines people trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by deceptive, coercive or other improper means for the purpose of exploiting that person. It is a global crime, committed at the expense of victims who are robbed of their dignity and freedom.”

Unite Union advocate Mike Treen asked Minister Kris Faafoi to explain which part of “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by deceptive, coercive or other improper means for the purpose of exploiting that person” did not apply in this and so many other cases that were not investigated.

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