The Jakarta Post
Indonesian lawyers have filed a report with the police alleging human trafficking of Indonesian crew members aboard Chinese fishing vessel Long Xin 629, following recent viral reports on alleged exploitation of sailors.
In a statement on Friday, lawyers from Indonesian law firm Margono-Surya and Partners (MSP) said they had received information on April 30 about the deaths of four Indonesians who had worked aboard the fishing ship from South Korean public defender Kim Jong-chul of the Seoul-based Advocates for Public Interest Law (APIL).
“[Kim] was consulting with MSP regarding the case. He later sent [us] the Seafarer’s Employment Agreement belonging to one of the deceased crewmen, identified only by his initials EP,” the law firm wrote in the statement.
Kim later gave a televised interview with the South Korean Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation. The interview went viral on social media and sparked an outcry in Indonesia.
In their report to the police, the lawyers demanded the National Police investigate the incident as they argued the Indonesian sailors’ employment aboard the fishing vessel had violated the 2007 Human Trafficking Law and the 2017 Migrant Worker Protection Law.
“[EP’s] employment agreement also violated a 2016 Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministerial Regulation [on crew member employment agreements], specifically Article 11, paragraph 1,” the lawyers added.
The article requires Indonesian foreign missions to review the employment agreements of Indonesian crew members working aboard foreign vessels.
The lawyers also argued that EP’s employment agreement was peculiar in terms of his wages. The contract stipulated that the sailor was supposed to receive monthly payments of US$300 – half of which would be sent to his family, another $100 would be kept by the ship’s owner and the remaining $50 would be paid after the ship docked.
However, the agreement also required EP to pay $800 to the recruitment agency in Indonesia, as well as an additional $600 for document fees.
The agreement stipulated that EP had to pay $1,600 in fines if he decided to resign as well as $5,000 if he moved to another ship.
The Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the Indonesian Embassy in Seoul had received information that two Chinese fishing vessels, identified as Long Xin 605 and Tian Yu 8, docked in Busan with 46 Indonesian crew members on April 14.
Of the total crew members, 15 had been transferred from the ship Long Xin 629, while 20 others came from Long Xin 606.
The two ships were eventually detained at port for carrying undocumented crew members. Some of the sailors were initially registered to work on Long Xin 629. Authorities allowed them to disembark and put the crewmen under a 14-day quarantine in line with COVID-19 health protocols.
EP was among the crew members who disembarked at the port. He was in critical condition when he arrived and was taken to a hospital in the city, where he eventually died of pneumonia.
Three other Indonesian crewmen – all of whom had worked aboard Long Xin 629 – died aboard the ship between December of last year and late March of this year. They were buried at sea.
South Korea has launched an investigation into alleged illegal fishing and employment practices aboard the Chinese fishing vessels.
South Korean environmental activist Lee Yong-ki said Long Xin 629 was initially built as a tuna fishing boat but it occasionally also caught sharks to harvest their fins. The ship was allegedly reluctant to go to port in Busan because of allegations of illegal fishing, Lee said as quoted by tempo.co on Thursday.
Mas Achmad Santosa of the Indonesian Ocean Justice Initiative (IOJI) called Indonesian and Chinese authorities to launch a joint investigation into the alleged human rights violations against the Indonesian crew members.
“[While] the Chinese government should ensure that the company that owns the vessels, Dalian Ocean Fishing Co. Ltd., fulfills Indonesian crew members’ rights, […] Indonesian authorities should also investigate the agencies that send the crew members off to work aboard foreign-flagged vessels,” Achmad said in a statement.
The Indonesian government has demanded Chinese authorities investigate the working conditions aboard the fishing ships.
Most of the 46 crew members have returned to Indonesia. The latest 14 sailors returned to Indonesia on Friday. Two others are still completing immigration requirements. (kuk)