Indonesian migrant fishermen trapped in modern slavery
Meanwhile, he and three friends chose to jump into the Straits of Malacca and arrived in Malaysia after drifting at sea for 12 hours. They then returned to Indonesia after being assisted by the Indonesian Embassy.
Activists from the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union in Tegal, Central Java, facilitate a meeting between fishermen and a recruitment agency over a wage dispute. (Photo provided)
Suwarno said he found that migrant fishermen had encountered problems since being recruited.
He said the men, who are usually from Central Java and Jakarta, generally lack navigation experience and are not adequately prepared.
“We discovered that many of their documents were fake. The Transport Ministry confirmed that there were thousands of fake seafaring books in the hands of migrant fishermen,” he said.
He said they also found out that the Mafia was involved in the process, resulting in increased costs during the recruiting process, which were then charged as debts to be paid off by the fishermen.
Another factor, Suwarno said, is the lack of supervision of recruitment agencies and no firm action against them. He said that in cases where they were dealing with many migrant fishermen, they were sent by companies that did not have a license.
Scalabrinian Father Ansensius Guntur, director of the Stella Maris Center in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, an organization run by the Catholic Church that deals with migrants, sailors and refugees, said that over the past year, they had met more than 3,000 Indonesian migrant fishermen working on vessels, where the majority said they had not obtained adequate information on the work situation and the rules in force in the vessel’s country of origin.
“In fact, it is very important that they know what action to take if something goes wrong. It means that something has gone wrong since they were recruited,” he told UCA News.
Cases are not going anywhere
Meanwhile, legal protection by the state is still weak. Sarwono said that of all the cases reported to police, so far, none have been taken to court.
Even in a case of slavery experienced by 74 fishermen stranded in Trinidad and Tobago in 2013, where nine recruiting companies were suspect, there was no follow-up.
“We have checked the progress several times with the police, but there has not been,” he said.
Due to this situation, he said, they have finally tried in recent years to take steps to ensure that fishermen assert their rights and that abuses are reported to law enforcement.
This has given results and seen many fishermen who have encountered problems related to their wages being able to obtain their rights.
However, he said there were also obstacles to continuing the legal process because after that they usually didn’t want to go any further.
Suwarno said the bitterness experienced by migrant fishermen was due to the fact that Indonesia did not have strict rules regarding the protection of crew members.
Indonesia has not ratified the International Labor Organization’s Work in Fishing Convention No. 188, which sets standards for Fishermen’s Work Agreements (ATFs) and working and living conditions in the fishery. on board ships.
In addition, although it already has the Indonesian Migrant Workers Protection Act of 2017, the government has not yet included specific regulations relating to migrant fishermen.
“In fact, the law provides that two years later the regulations will be in place. This means that they should have been completed by 2019,” he said.
In a recent webinar, Minister of Manpower Ida Fauziah said the regulations were under review by the Secretary of State.
However, according to Suwarno, it was an old song sung by the government.
“The uncertainty surrounding the publication of these regulations has made migrant fishermen, without guarantee of state protection, increasingly vulnerable to exploitation,” he said.
The lack of rules has seen most of them placed under ‘letter guaranteed placement’, a placement program that puts their fate in the hands of private fishing companies, making them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. .
Activists from the Indonesian Union of Migrant Workers and Greenpeace Indonesia demonstrate outside the Presidential Palace in Jakarta in August 2020 to demand the president to immediately ratify the regulation to protect migrant fishermen. (Photo: Greenpeace Indonesia)
Suwarno said the government must provide legal protection, either by ratifying ILO conventions or by issuing government regulations. “The supervision of the agencies must also be strengthened,” he said.
Father Guntur echoed this statement. “The government should also ensure that every problematic agent is blacklisted,” he said.
The priest said Indonesia must work with ASEAN countries to jointly establish a protection agreement and urge countries using migrant fishermen to comply.
“If the ASEAN countries are united, then I am sure the countries that use migrants will also want to improve because they are very dependent on ASEAN, especially Indonesia,” he said. .
“If only one country like Indonesia has strict rules, then they can move to another country.”
Afdillah Chudiel, ocean activist for Greenpeace Indonesia, said the key lies in the political will of the Indonesian government. “Before Indonesia presses other countries, Indonesia must lead by example,” he said.
He also said that an ongoing campaign is needed for this issue to gain global attention because, despite the seriousness of such cases, this issue is only discussed when a case goes viral. “After that, the question seems to be forgotten,” he said.
He said one of their efforts was the launch of a special website, seabound.greenpeace.org, in April, which exposes the problems of migrant fishermen.
Father Guntur said that in Taiwan, although there is a big fishing industry, not many people understand this problem. Therefore, he said, he and his center continue to educate people so that more and more care about the issue.
Carmelite Father Aegidius Eko Aldianto, executive secretary of the Indonesian Bishops’ Commission for Justice and Peace and the Pastoral Care of Itinerant Migrants, said the commission’s involvement in this issue is limited to certain cases handled by the diocesan commission .
However, he said, there are also parishes near the ports that are home to fishermen, such as near Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta.
Father Guntur said the issue of crew members is actually a problem for all humans “because perhaps the different types of seafood we eat are the result of the sweat of enslaved men.”
“We should be ashamed if our fellow human beings are continually treated this way. I hope everyone will work together to end this form of slavery.”