Another 59 Fishermen Waiting For Repatriation From Indonesia

Another 59 Cambodian fishermen rescued from forced labor on Thai-captained fishing boats will be repatriated to Cambodia from Indonesia in the coming weeks,  according to a Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman.

Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said in a statement that 38 of the fishermen were rescued from the island village of Benjina, from where 59 other fishermen were previously repatriated in early April after it emerged that the island served as the hub for a forced labor operation.

“Because the 38 Cambodian migrant workers do not have passports, the Cambodian embassy will issue travel documents and cooperate closely with IOM [the International Organization for Migration] to repatriate them in the first week of June,” he said.

Mr. Kuong added 21 Cambodian fishermen were rescued from Thai-captained fishing boats from the Indonesian island of Ambon.

“The Cambodian embassy cooperated with Indonesian authorities to rescue 21 Cambodian migrant workers from Thai fishing boats at Ambon island,” the statement says, adding that because the men also lacked passports the embassy would issue travel documents for them, too.

The 59 Cambodian fishermen rescued from Benjina last month were trafficked into Thailand and boarded onto Thai-captained boats, which then trawled Indonesian waters and docked at Benjina, where the Pusaka Benjina Resources fishing company allegedly ran a forced labor fishing operation.

After their rescue, the IOM estimated that a further 4,000 foreign fishermen could be stranded on various islands in Indonesia.

Steve Hamilton, IOM’s deputy chief of mission for Indonesia, said he did not have information on the 21, but said the 38 were rescued from Benjina about a week ago.

“I think it’s definitely not the end,” he said. “The case of Benjina was just one island, just one company. I think they’ll [Indonesia’s fisheries ministry] find more cases of abuse. There is a history of Cambodians being trafficked here long before the Benjina case.”

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