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Report: Continued Rise in Sea Slavery for Indonesian Fishermen

greenpeace taiwanese fishing vessels
File image courtesy Greenpeace

Published Jun 25, 2021 12:52 PM by The Maritime Executive

For the last two years, Indonesian migrant fishermen have experienced a sharp rise in the incidence of forced labor at sea. A report released earlier this month by Greenpeace reveals that the situation became dire in 2020, when the world was reeling under the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, 118 complaints were reported - the highest number received to date and an increase from 86 complaints received in 2019.

The report - Forced Labour at Sea: The Case of Indonesian Migrant Fishers - is based on complaints reported to Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia (SBMI), a non-profit that promotes the welfare and rights of Indonesian migrant fishers.

A set of forced labor indicators were analyzed, with the top ones including withholding of wages (87 percent of the complaints), abusive working and living conditions (82 percent), deception (80 percent) and abuse of vulnerability (67 percent). The complaints mainly came from 41 fishing vessels and four reefers.

“We believe this is just the tip of an iceberg, since we can only document complaints filed to SBMI, and we know that there are many more unreported and unmonitored cases out there,” the Ocean Campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia, Afdillah, told local reporters.

The report alleges that 20 Indonesian manning agencies and 26 fishing firms from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Ivory Coast and Nauru were involved in forced labor against Indonesian fishermen.

Despite the fact that Indonesia supplies the world’s third-largest sea workforce, after China and the Philippines, the government is yet to ratify fundamental International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions, such as ILO C-188 (Work in Fishing Convention). Joining these international standards could ensure the rights of crew members are guaranteed, especially for those working on foreign registered vessels.