Indonesia: Government should seek international aid to evacuate crew from stranded fishing boats in Somalia, activist says
JAKARTA, INDONESIA – The Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW) urged the Indonesian government to seek help from international organizations such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) to help evacuate 13 crew members from Indonesian fishing vessels stranded in Somalia for eight months aboard a Chinese-flagged vessel.
The national body said that in addition to contacting IOM and EJF, it also contacted the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for the same purpose.
DFW coordinator Abdi Suhufan told TOC on August 19 that there had been no update so far on the evacuation process “as the stranded sailors are now isolated”.
Depressed and frightened in such confined conditions, Abdi said fishermen feared that at the time of the crisis they would escape the situation by jumping into the sea.
The 13 stranded fishermen worked for five Chinese fishing boats of the Liao Dong Yu Group. Their contract expired in December 2020.
They tried to contact the recruitment agency that had recruited them. However, the business was closed due to legal issues.
In addition to this figure, one crew member went missing and the other died as a result of an industrial accident on the fishing vessel Liao Dong Yu 571, DFW said in an Aug. 16 statement.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry said in an official statement that the pandemic had complicated the evacuation process.
“It will take time to reach the location due to the pandemic,” the ministry’s Indonesian Citizen Protection Agency said, quoted in Liputan6.com on Aug. 18.
The ministry added that it had coordinated with the Indonesian embassies in Nairobi and Beijing, as well as with other related institutions such as the Indonesian Agency for the Protection of Migrant Workers (BP2MI), which reports to the Ministry of Manpower.
Mr Abdi said the abandonment of workers from fishing boats had been reported to the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Manpower since June 29.
“The government has made every effort to save all the fishermen, but has not yet managed to evacuate them,” Abdi said.
The TOC understands that none of the institutions involved have so far claimed responsibility for the incident.
The exploitation of crew members of Indonesian fishing vessels is one of the most serious problems involving Indonesian migrant workers.
Many job seekers have been deceived by illegal recruitment agencies offering a contract with a monthly salary of $ 430.
However, in reality, workers receive less than the amount stated in the contract–many only received their salary once–are however forced to endure poor working conditions and constant intimidation, said Mr. Abdi in a telephone interview on June 15, 2020.
DFW investigations from November 2019 to March 2021 found that 35 Indonesian fishing vessel crews died while working for foreign-flagged vessels.
Eighty-two percent of them worked for Chinese vessels, while the rest worked for other foreign vessels such as Taiwanese-flagged vessels or Vanuatu-owned vessels.
In addition, most of them were placed by unregistered recruitment agencies.
Currently, Indonesian Migrant Workers Protection Law No. 8/2017 details the protections for Indonesian crew members on foreign fishing vessels.
However, the regulations have not yet provided the necessary protections for Indonesian nationals working on these vessels, as the central government has not yet fully involved regional administrations in the process.
Mr. Abdi noted that five institutions are involved in the recruitment of crew members of fishing vessels: the Indonesian ministries of manpower and transport, regional administrations, the National Council for Placement and Protection Indonesian Workers Abroad (BNP2TKI) and independent channels involving agents.
Overlapping ministerial authorities–concerning those coming under the Ministry of Manpower and the Ministry of Transport–regarding the recruitment and placement of workers on Indonesian fishing vessels have hampered efforts to protect these workers.
“The overlapping procedures made it difficult to keep track of the recruitment process, as many recruitment agencies are not registered,” Abdi told TOC.