An alliance of civic groups yesterday called on the government to protect the human rights of foreign workers hired by Taiwanese fishing vessels flying a flag of convenience (FOC). It said such boats are often accused of illegal fishing or inhumane working conditions.
FOC vessels are a neglected part of the nation’s COVID-19 prevention efforts, as the government does not have guidelines governing how to quarantine such vessels or the entry of foreign fishers on board, said the Foreign Fisher Human Rights Protection Alliance, which is made up of several civic groups advocating labor and human rights.
Three Philippine fishers who worked on FOC vessels operated by Taiwanese — the Da Wang (大旺) and Chin Chun No. 12 (金春12號), both registered in Vanuatu — have asked the alliance for help, it said.
After the Da Wang returned to Kaohsiung in April, one fisher was confined by his Taiwanese broker at a building in the city from April 20 to May 4 and threatened not to inform officials, it said, adding that the fisher developed bronchitis before his confinement.
As the Da Wang left Taiwan again on May 7, the fisher was asked to quit his job and the Serve the People Association took him to its shelter in Taoyuan, the alliance said.
Overwork, physical violence and death of an Indonesian fisher had been reported from the Da Wang, the alliance said, citing a report published by Greenpeace Southeast Asia last year.
The other two Philippine fishers on the Chin Chun No. 12 were confined at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport for 20 days when they tried to return to the Philippines after disembarking from the ship, said Lennon Wong (汪英達), director of the association’s shelter.
The National Immigration Agency considered them as having illegally entered Taiwan and planned to deport them by Friday, he said.
After the association intervened and offered legal assistance, the agency allowed it to temporarily shelter the two fishers in Taoyuan, he said.
Having no legal entry permits is not the fishers’ problem; it is the government’s failure to attend to their plight, Wong said, calling on the agency to revoke their illegal entry records and allow them to return home.
It is estimated that more than 140 foreign fishers who entered Taiwan on FOC vessels have been stranded in Kaohsiung’s Cijin Port (旗津) this year, as they did not have legal entry permits, Wong added.
FOC vessels are often found to take part in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as well as forced labor or human trafficking, it said, calling on the government to abolish the FOC system to improve fisheries management.
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