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Jakarta Post

Indonesian crewmen of Chinese fishing vessels repatriated as investigation underway

  • Apriza Pinandita
    Apriza Pinandita

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, May 8, 2020   /   06:22 pm
Indonesian crewmen of Chinese fishing vessels repatriated as investigation underway Chinese fishing boats allegedly used in Korea's exclusive zone are moored at a port in Incheon, South Korea, Oct. 10, 2016. (Yonhap via AP/Yun Tae-hyun)

The Indonesian government has repatriated 14 Indonesian crewmen of a Chinese fishing vessel from South Korea on Friday after video footage raised concern about working conditions on the vessel.

The Indonesian sailors departed from Seoul’s Incheon International Airport on a Garuda Indonesia flight on Friday morning and were scheduled to arrive in Jakarta at 3:50 p.m.

Indonesian Ambassador to South Korea Umar Hadi said the returning crewmen had worked aboard the Long Xin 629 before they eventually disembarked in the port city of Busan from other ships on April 23.

The 14 sailors were registered as working on the Long Xin 629. However, South Korean authorities found them aboard the Long Xin 605 and Tian Yu 8, which had landed at Busan. Therefore, authorities declared them undocumented passengers.

“They stayed at a hotel in Busan to comply with South Korea’s COVID-19 quarantine regulation,” Umar said in a statement from Seoul on Friday.

Public concern about the working conditions aboard the vessel emerged after footage allegedly showing Chinese sailors throwing the body of a dead Indonesian crew member overboard went viral. The video has raised allegations of human exploitation, causing outcry over poor working conditions.

Read also: Indonesian sailors’ deaths on Chinese fishing vessel raise questions about working conditions

During a press briefing on Thursday, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said the 14 sailors were among 46 Indonesian crewmen who had worked on four Chinese vessels, namely Long Xin 629 (15 sailors), Long Xin 605 (eight), Long Xin 606 (20) and Tian Yu 8 (three) for the past few months. 

The minister said two ships -- Long Xin 605 and Tian Yu 8 -- were detained upon docking in Busan for carrying unregistered crewmen, some of whom were Indonesians. The crew members were allowed to disembark the ship as they were considered as passengers.

Health authorities later put them in a 14-day quarantine in Busan, according to the COVID-19 health protocol, while their ships continued to sail to China.

Retno confirmed that four sailors working on the fishing vessels had died, including three who had died aboard the ships in December last year and in late March.

Investigations are underway to determine whether the Indonesian sailors were treated well or exploited while they were on board.

Ambassador Umar said the Korean Coast Guard had questioned the 14 sailors prior to their departure for Indonesia. “We will follow up [with the Korean authorities] on concerns raised by the sailors.”

The ministry’s director for citizen protection, Judha Nugraha, said on Friday that the 14 repatriated sailors would be brought to the National Police’s Criminal Investigation Department after landing in Jakarta to be probed about their treatment on the fishing vessels.

“[The investigation will establish] whether their rights were met [while they’re working aboard the ships],” the director said.