NGOs call on the Taiwanese government to end abuse of migrants fishers
May 17, 2018

NGOs call on the Taiwanese government to end abuse of migrants fishers

By EJF Staff

Taiwan risks undermining its own policies by failing to protect migrant fishers against human rights abuses, the NGO coalition ‘Human Rights for Migrant Fishers’ has said.

The Taiwanese government has heavily promoted its New South-Bound Policy, which aims to strengthen cultural and economic relationships with Southeast Asia. However, migrant fishers – who hail mainly from the Southeast Asian countries of Indonesia and the Philippines – continue to endure abuse on Taiwanese vessels because of the lack of appropriate laws, transparency and labour inspection measures.

Today, the Human Rights for Migrant Fishers coalition – including the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Greenpeace and five other fishers’ and labour rights organisations – issued a statement with clear actions that the Taiwan government must take to protect migrant fishers and live up to the ambitions of its own policies.

Fishers are vulnerable to abuse due to the remote nature of fishing. The collapse of global fish stocks also creates pressures, with some vessel owners turning to exploitation and illegal fishing as catches and profits fall.

Migrant fishers are especially at risk. With a lack of transparency in the fishing sector and no appropriate government measures in place to ensure their rights and inspect working conditions, migrant fishers on Taiwanese vessels can and do fall victim to debt-bondage, forced labour, human trafficking and other serious human rights abuses.

Despite its stated aim of achieving close cultural and economic relationships with Southeast Asian countries, the Taiwanese government is reluctant to provide migrant fishers with better protection and a safer work environment.

EJF and the rest of the coalition is calling for the Taiwanese government to:

  • Ratify the International Labour Organization’s Work in Fishing Convention 188 to ensure the fair treatment of all fishers.
  • Apply the national Labour Standards Act to all fishers and ensure the Ministry of Labour is the authority responsible for all labour affairs, working closely with the Fisheries Agency to ensure it has regular access to vessels in Taiwan and across the world.
  • Invest sufficient resources to ensure labour inspections are timely and accurately conducted;
  • Provide training for prosecutors and judges to increase the prosecution and conviction of human traffickers or human right abusers;
  • Develop a complaint channel so fishers can receive help while at sea;
  • Put an end to the poorly regulated channels used by Taiwanese vessel operators and owners to recruit overseas workers. Protecting migrant workers on fishing vessels is not only the right thing to do, it will improve Taiwan’s international reputation and help eradicate illegal fishing. Taiwan must seize this opportunity to show leadership in the region.