Massage industry: putting pressure on human trafficking

Foley said although New Zealand legislation specifically excluded migrants on temporary visas from lawfully providing commercial sexual services, they could be granted visas to work as massage therapists.

Massage therapists required a skill level 2 position, so applicants needed either a level 5 qualification or three years’ relevant experience to be approved a work visa, Foley said.

“Applications for a visa to work as a massage therapist are robustly assessed,” Foley added.

Over the last two years, there were 389 applications lodged by foreign nationals to work as massage therapists and 303 had been approved.

But many working in massage parlours and centres that offered sexual services were migrants on temporary visas, such as a student or visitor visa.

Foley said the agency was “very aware” that migrants working in the massage therapy industry could be “vulnerable to exploitation”.