Taiwan No. 1 focus of complaints by Indonesian migrant fishermen

CNA file photo for illustrative purposes only.

TAIPEI (CNA) — Nearly one third of complaints filed by Indonesian migrant fishermen are employed on Taiwanese ships, the most out of any country, according to recent statistics released by an Indonesian government agency.

Of the 389 complaints the Agency for the Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BP2MI) received from 2018 to May 6, 2020, 120 were filed by fishermen who worked on Taiwanese ships, said Benny Rhamdani, who heads the agency.

Fishermen working on South Korean ships reported the second highest number of complaints, with 42, followed by Peru (30), China (23) and South Africa (16).

According to Benny, 164 of the complaints involved unpaid wages, while 47 involved deaths, 46 dealt with injuries, 23 with forced deportations and 18 fishermen reported that their passports or other documents were confiscated by brokers.

While 213 of the complaints the agency received have been resolved, the rest are still being processed, said Benny.

In response to the report, Fisheries Agency Deputy Director-General Lin Kuo-ping (林國平) said that most of the complaints his agency receives from migrant fishermen concern underpaid wages.

In cases where the complaints are found to be valid, employers are fined and ordered to pay their workers in full, Lin told CNA on Tuesday.

There have also been cases where the salary is withheld by brokers in the migrants’ home country, which does not concern Taiwanese employers or brokers, Lin said.

Other cases the agency has dealt with involve workers who receive inadequate rest between shifts and a small percentage who had their papers confiscated, Lin said.

He added that the agency has received no complaints involving death, injury or deportations in recent years, but noted that the agency only handles complaints from fishermen working on far-sea fishing boats.

Other cases are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labor, he said.

The working conditions of migrant fishermen have been in the spotlight in recent weeks, after three Indonesian fishermen registered to the same Chinese vessel died and their bodies were thrown into the ocean.

Another fisherman who worked on the ship died in South Korea, where the vessel docked after 13 months at sea.

The case, which was first reported by South Korean media, is under investigation by Indonesian and Chinese authorities.