The agency added that it was working to implement its clear policy against recruitment fees, withholding of wages and overtime, which should guarantee 10 hours of rest per day and four days off each month.
There would be zero tolerance for physical or verbal abuse and mechanisms existed to report violations. Port inspections to monitor conditions for foreign crews were also introduced in 2018.
For the U.S. press, the agency said it was willing to humbly listen to suggestions from all walks of life and discuss ways to improve.
But while efforts were being made to close the regulatory gap between domestic and foreign workers, he insisted that most fishing boat owners were willing to treat foreign teams kindly.
NGOs generally presented a one-sided, subjective view that unfairly tarnished the industry and did not always take into account the views of shipowners, she claimed.
The pressure for action continues to rise.
In recent years, the Taiwanese government has made legal and regulatory changes. However, NGOs consider these changes insufficient and they continue to report serious abuses, a report from the International Labor Rights Forum said in December.
To end forced labor in long-distance fishing, the government must repeal the discriminatory employment scheme and ensure that all migrant fishermen are offered the same employment and protection rights as Taiwanese fishermen, said Kimberley Rogovin, coordinator of the ILRF seas campaign.
I hope Taiwan’s fishing industry learns to comply with international and domestic regulations against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and human rights violations, added Lennon Ying-Dah Wong, a workers’ rights activist.
What we want is simply to stop this kind of scandal and abuse, not to destroy the industry. If the industry does not change, they may face more international sanctions.
Hariyanto, head of the Migrant Workers Union in Indonesia, said he had heard of 21 cases, including five from Taiwan, of modern-day slavery on fishing boats from 2019-2020. The case when Arif had died was one of the worst cases we found, he claimed.
But perhaps no one wants to see the reform more than fishermen like Jack and Stanley.
Stanley remained in debt to the broker who found him the job and still had a scar on his leg where he was hit with a fishing spear.
Jack remains hidden in Taiwan, where he has found construction work, but is haunted by his experience at sea.
I just want to be heard .. to tell the whole truth about what happened on our fishing boat, he said. I want to get justice for what has happened to all of us.
- The names of the fishermen have been changed to protect their identity
Additional reporting: Dan Olanday in Manila
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