Sat, Mar 16, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Foreign fishers still face exploitation, new US report says

Staff writer, with CNA, WASHINGTON

Michael Kozak, ambassador for the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, speaks at the Department of State in Washington on Wednesday.

Photo: AP

Foreign fishermen on Taiwan-registered vessels are still vulnerable to labor exploitation, according to a human rights report released on Wednesday by the US Department of State.

“Mistreatment and poor working conditions for foreign fishermen remained common” on Taiwanese fishing boats, the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018 said.

“Foreign fishermen recruited offshore were not entitled to the same labor rights, wages, insurance and pensions as those recruited locally,” it said.

The report said that the Fisheries Agency and the Kaohsiung City Marine Bureau were last year censured by the Control Yuan after it was found that 37 foreign fishing crew members had been living in a 60m2 illegal shore house in Kaohsiung and were being made to pay NT$300 per day for that accommodation.

The report said that under the nation’s laws, the minimum monthly pay for foreign fishers is US$450, which is significantly below the minimum wage.

“Foreign fishing crews on Taiwan-flagged long-haul vessels generally received wages below US$450 per month because of dubious deductions for administrative fees and deposits,” the report said.

Greenpeace and other non-governmental organizations (NGO) had called for Taiwan to end the separate hiring system for foreign fishers, which prompted the Fisheries Agency to dispatch officers to six overseas ports to monitor the conditions on Taiwan-registered long-haul fishing vessels when they dock, it said.

The treatment of fishers on Taiwan-registered fishing boats has been in the spotlight, particularly after the Environmental Justice Foundation, a British NGO, found during an investigation last year that the crew on one vessel had been subjected to beatings and other forms of physical abuse, and were being underpaid and overworked.

“We sometimes slept only three hours,” one fisherman on the Fuh Sheng No. 11 told the foundation. “It was like slavery. There were many cockroaches in the food ... and insects in the bedroom. I had a small boil on my leg that became so swollen that my trousers didn’t fit, and my tendon became taut. I should not have been working, but I was forced to.”

The Fuh Sheng No. 11 lacked medical supplies and safety equipment, the foundation said, citing the crew.

It also said one crew member reported that he had been receiving a monthly salary of only US$50 for five months due to deductions.

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