Dozens of Enslaved Fishermen Return Home From Indonesia

A group of 38 fishermen returned to Cambodia on Tuesday after being rescued from forced labor in Indonesia.

Nearly 100 Cambodian fishermen have now been repatriated from the island of Benjina, which was revealed by an Associated Press investigation to be a hub for forced labor on fishing vessels.

Fishermen who were rescued from forced labor in Indonesia leave Phnom Penh International Airport on Tuesday. (Alex Consiglio/The Cambodia Daily)
Fishermen who were rescued from forced labor in Indonesia leave Phnom Penh International Airport on Tuesday. (Alex Consiglio/The Cambodia Daily)

Brett Dickson, a program manager for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Cambodia, which assisted with the repatriation of 59 Cambodian fishermen from Benjina in May and the 38 Tuesday, said that the most recently returned group would spend two nights in Phnom Penh.

“They are being interviewed by anti-human trafficking police,” he said, adding that the men had been given phones to call their families. “Tomorrow they will meet with psychologists.”

Mr. Dickson said that some of the fishermen had received partial payment for their work after the Indonesian government, IOM and the Cambodian Embassy in Jakarta put pressure on their employers.

“I don’t know exactly where the money is coming from, but some of them have been paid,” he said. “Not the amount they should have received, but some money.”

A Cambodian woman, who was working as a domestic maid in Malaysia before arriving in Indonesia, also returned Tuesday with the group of fishermen, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Another 199 fishermen remain in Indonesia, on the island of Ambon, awaiting repatriation. They are due home at the end of June.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong could not be reached for comment.

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