The International Transport Federation says it has reported a Taiwanese and an Indonesian crewing agent to Interpol for suspected human trafficking after 74 Indonesian fishers working on board seven Taiwanese vessels were abandoned in September, 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa.
It is alleged that the agents withheld the fishers’ wages, in some cases for over a year; produced counterfeit documents relating to crew members’ employment; and charged the fishers [fees] before they boarded the vessel.
ITF/IUF fisheries programme leader, Liz Blackshaw, said: “The fishing industry has a very serious human trafficking problem. Whenever we come across a suspected case like this one, we report it to Interpol.
“In this case, it appears the men were captives on their vessels for months without wages. They would have gone without food and water, while the captain was wined and dined by the local agents, if it hadn’t been for the help of the local community and the ITF inspector. And the government machinery to release them ground far too slowly. These men have experienced an absolute breach of their fundamental human rights.”
Cassiem Augustus, an ITF inspector in Cape Town, was involved in working with the South African government and Indonesian embassy in Pretoria to get the fishers repatriated in March, following two months’ detention by immigration officials in Cape Town. He presented humanitarian gifts at ITF affiliate KPI (Kesatuan Pelaut Indonesia) to the fishers on 19 May in Jakarta, Indonesia, to help them while they pursue their unpaid wages claims.
Meanwhile, KPI is lobbying the Indonesian government to implement stricter measures for checking documents and harsh penalties for companies who violate recruitment rules for foreign vessels.