Source: Greenpeace New Zealand
It is a sad truth that even now, on the cusp of 2020, slavery is very much alive in the modern context. This is particularly true in the fishing industry and of great concern, are migrant workers from Indonesia and the Philippines. For several years now, international media has shone a spotlight on the inhumane working conditions of migrant fishers from Southeast Asia.
In a new report, “Seabound: The Journey to Modern Slavery on the High Seas”, Greenpeace Southeast Asia spoke to many migrant fishers about their experiences in order to present a snapshot of the living and working conditions onboard distant water fishing (DWF) vessels, according to the fishers themselves.
Here are 5 reasons modern slavery at sea is possible, and why it is so important that we shine a light on these issues today, on International Human Rights Day.
Vulnerable job-seekers from Indonesia & the Philippines are seeking better paid employment
“Rahmatullah was desperate to improve economic conditions and provide a better life for his parents with a higher paying job.” – article in Liputan BMI, Indonesian publication
Many of the migrant fishers interviewed in the article and in Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s report, stated that local job opportunities are scarce and economic pressure drove them to seek employment overseas. It is also very common for young men in Southeast Asia to be responsible for providing for their parents and family so, despite hearing disturbing tales of what happens to migrant fishers at sea, many still take the chance to earn more money.
Shady employment agencies lure workers with false promises
“Work conditions such as food, working hours, social insurance, among others were not like as promised by the manning agency in Indonesia.” – direct testimonial, Mr C, former crew
Common to many testimonials heard by Greenpeace Southeast Asia, is the allegation that the agencies who place the workers often promise high salaries but take large processing and placement fees, resulting in severe losses to individuals and their families. One worker even reported being asked to sign a contract written in another language, which he could not understand, leaving him completely in the dark about the agreement he had just entered into.
Fish populations are declining rapidly
Dwindling coastal fish populations are forcing vessels to seek fish further and further out to sea, where monitoring and control is virtually impossible. This distant water fishing results in higher operational costs, and increases the possibility of exploitation of migrant fishers to cut expenses.
Aside from the various alleged labour violations, overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing place a huge burden on marine ecosystems.