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Reports of human rights abuse towards Indonesian fishers increasing

“Based on the information from the crews, the company has violated human rights.”

Increasing numbers of cases of human and labour rights abuse towards Indonesian fishers on foreign flagged vessels are coming to light. Most recently, international NGOs, including Human Rights at Sea, have been contacted with evidence highlighting the fishers’ plight, the poor working conditions in which they are forced to work and allegations of ill-treatment resulting in deaths at sea.

One Indonesian NGO, Destructive Fishing Watch Indonesia, is working to highlight the issue through collating witness information describing incidents of forced labor experienced by Indonesian fishing boat crews notably working on Chinese ships.

Earlier this year, media articles started to shine a greater light on the incidents of egregious human rights abuse, including those published by the South China Morning Post: ‘Indonesia urged to impose tighter rules for Chinese fishing vessel recruitment after seamen’s deaths‘ (June 6, 2020), SE Asia News site: ‘Indonesia Launches Probe after 2 Males Bounce off Chinese language Fishing Boat‘, and the Jakarta based Go Compass article (August 14, 2020): ‘Government Raises Concern over Plight of Indonesian Fishing Crew‘.

In May, video was released of the burial at sea of an Indonesian fisher highlighted by SCMP. Warning – disturbing images.


Following the video’s exposure, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi, attacked the actions of a Chinese fishing company as reported by AP in the SCMP:

“We condemn the inhuman treatment against our crew members working at the Chinese fishing company,” Marsudi said. “Based on the information from the crews, the company has violated human rights.”

Credit: The Tokyo & The Chunichi Shimbun Newspaper.

The recent Japanese article published in The Tokyo & The Chunichi Shimbun newspaper (September 14, 2020) highlighted unacceptable treatment of Indonesian nationals. Sections of the article are highlighted below and which also links to a YouTube video onboard an unidentified fishing vessel. Warning – disturbing images.

“中国漁船でインドネシア人船員の虐待死相次ぐ 被害男性の証言から浮かび上がる”

Indonesian crew have died one after another on Chinese fishing boats. One of the victims reveals the real situation.

The staffing agency promised me to pay …but I didn’t expect I would experience slavery.

Indonesian crew were assigned heavy labor, and ate Chinese crew’s leftovers.

A colleague died of violence and excessive work…his dead body was thrown into the sea.

The Indonesian government noticed the video I had posted on Facebook and rescued us.

Even after that, an Indonesian fisherman’s body was found in a refrigerator on a Chinese fishing boat…14 men most of whom are young men are dead and 3 are missing in total.


Human Rights at Sea is increasingly working with NGO partners to further raise essential awareness of such horrific human rights abuses, and the unacceptable treatment of Indonesian fishers in distant water fleets.

Source: Human Rights at Sea

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