Sun, Oct 01, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Catholic congress opens in Kaohsiung

Staff writer, with CNA

The 24th World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea — an agency of the Catholic Church — is to open tomorrow at the Ambassador Hotel Kaohsiung and is to focus on migrant fishermen working at sea.

The event will focus heavily on fishermen’s rights and forced labor issues, said Alfred Hu (胡念祖), director of National Sun Yat-sen University’s Institute of Marine Affairs, which is cohosting the meeting.

The rights of and care for foreign fishermen have drastically improved, but the government should face the problem of Taiwanese fishing boats that are registered in foreign countries evading inspections, Hu said.

The Catholic Church has set up service centers in many ports around the world for church workers and volunteers to inquire after the welfare of fishermen and offer much-needed assistance, he added.

The Taiwan Presbyterian Church’s Fishermen Service Center offers similar assistance to migrant fishermen working on Taiwanese boats, Hu said, adding that the center’s staff will also attend the congress to present a report on this topic.

The majority of the foreign fishermen working on boats registered in the city come from Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam, Kaohsiung Marine Bureau fisheries division head Chuang Shih-feng (莊士鋒) said.

Most of the 17,000 foreign fishermen come from Indonesia, he added.

Usually on a boat of about 50 people, apart from the Taiwanese captain and the chief engineer, the rest of the crew would all be foreigners, Chuang said.

The bureau has set up a telephone hotline for such boats and in the past few years, it has received one or two calls per month, mostly regarding salary disputes, he added.

However, labor and human rights groups say that many of the fishermen working on Taiwanese-owned, foreign-registered fishing vessels are hired overseas and the Taiwanese authorities do not keep track of how they are treated or keep a record of their employment.

This has led to widespread abuses of human rights, the groups say.

The World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea is held once every four years and presents documents in many different languages, including Mandarin, English, French, Italian and Spanish. It is the first time the congress is to be held in Taiwan, which has one of the world’s biggest fishing industries.

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