By Benjamin Wickham
WINDHOEK, March 29 — The recent case of 36 Filipino fishermen who were forced into labour trafficking in Namibia has caught the attention of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) in the Philippines. The fishermen were initially recruited to work in Taiwan, but they ended up working as fishermen in Namibia. The DMW has endorsed the case to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for investigation and appropriate action.
According to Susan Ople, the Secretary of the DMW, the fishermen were made to work for 36 hours straight with only two meals a day, and an average of four hours of sleep. Their identity papers, including passports and seamen’s books, were kept away from them, which is a blatant violation of their rights. The manning agencies involved in the recruitment of the fishermen, Trioceanic Manning & Shipping Inc. and Diamond H Marine Services & Shipping Agency, were able to pay the back wages due to the fishermen after appearing before the DMW. However, the principals involved in the Namibian case, Shang Chi Enterprise Ltd., One Marine Services Inc., and Arrow Marine PTE, Ltd., are now being investigated.
It is not the first time that Filipino fishermen have been rescued from forced labour on industrial fishing vessels in Namibia. In September of last year, 60 people were rescued from M/Vs Shang Fu and Nata 2 in Waivis Bay, most of whom were from the Philippines. The gravity of contractual and labour violations committed against the fishermen has prompted the DMW to seek the help of the DOJ and IACAT.
The case highlights the vulnerability of migrant workers to forced labour and human trafficking. Many migrant workers leave their home countries to seek better opportunities abroad, but they can become easy targets for unscrupulous recruiters and employers. They may be promised high-paying jobs and a better life, only to find themselves in situations of exploitation and abuse.
Governments must take action to protect their citizens from the scourge of human trafficking and forced labour. This includes strengthening laws against trafficking and exploitation, providing support and assistance to victims, and holding perpetrators accountable. It also requires cooperation between countries to prevent and combat trafficking and to ensure that migrant workers are treated fairly and with dignity.
The case of the 36 Filipino fishermen is a reminder that much work remains to be done to end forced labour and human trafficking. We must continue to raise awareness about this issue and take action to protect the rights and dignity of all people, regardless of their nationality or status. – Namibia Daily News