Trafficked Cambodian Fishermen Head Home from Remote Indonesian Waters
( IOM ) - Eight Cambodian fishermen, trafficked to work on fishing boats in Indonesia, are on their way home thanks to a joint operation involving IOM, the Indonesian authorities and Cambodia.
IOM was contacted by the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), a Cambodian NGO, with a tip off that the men had been trafficked to the remote Aru Islands, part of Indonesia's Maluku province between West Papua and Australia. IOM then notified the Indonesian police.
Despite the remote location and challenging terrain, Maluku police officers found the men within four days in mid-December. IOM, with the support of the police, then brought them from the island to Jakarta - a distance of over 2,500 kilometres. It is now working with the Cambodian Foreign Ministry to arrange their repatriation.
In a separate development, another group of 15 Cambodians was subsequently located on another Maluku island, some 500 kilometres away.
While information on the second group is still being processed, IOM can confirm that the first group were hired to work as fishermen on Thai-flagged fishing boats and were promised good salaries. Instead they found themselves exposed to abuse and severely exploitative work conditions.
The men, aged from 19 to 57, were originally recruited in Cambodia in 2009. They were promised work in Thailand as fishermen with a monthly salary of some THB 8,000 (USD 265).
But they were subsequently told by the boat owner that they had been sold to him and must pay USD 3,000 each if they wished to return to Cambodia.
When their boats docked in the Aru Islands, the men escaped and managed to call home. Their families contacted CLEC for help, which in turn alerted IOM.
The Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs is now providing safe accommodation and food for them in Jakarta, while IOM is arranging medical support and hygiene items. IOM is also coordinating identification procedures and working with the Cambodian embassy and the Indonesian Immigration Department to process travel documents and exit permits.
When the men get back to Cambodia, IOM will arrange temporary accommodation, medical checkups, a daily subsistence allowance and travel money to return to their home provinces. IOM Cambodia will also refer them to local NGO partners and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation for legal and psycho-social support.
According to a 2011 IOM report Trafficking of Fishermen in Thailand*, working conditions on Thai fishing boats are often extremely bad. Crews, many of whom are from Cambodia and Myanmar, and are hired through irregular channels, are expected to work up to 20 hours a day. Threats, physical violence and withholding of payment are commonplace.
IOM, through its counter trafficking programme provides medical care, food, hygiene supplies and return assistance to victims of trafficking worldwide.
IOM Indonesia's victim assistance programme has helped more than 4,840 Indonesian and foreign trafficking victims since 2005. In 2011 and 2012 alone, IOM Cambodia and IOM Indonesia assisted the safe return and reintegration of more than 100 Cambodian male trafficking victims, most them fishermen from Thai boats.