Authorities were investigating suspected forced labor on a Chinese fishing boat after two Indonesians jumped overboard into Malacca Strait waters to escape alleged mistreatment, a foreign ministry official in Jakarta said Wednesday.
The incident, which occurred late last week, followed a spate of deaths of Indonesian crew members who had worked aboard Chinese boats – seven since November 2019, according to a fishermen’s advocacy group and Indonesian government officials.
Andry Juniansyah, 30, and Reynalfi, 22, jumped from the Chinese-flagged ship Lu Qing Yuan Yu 901 as it sailed in the Malacca Strait on Friday, according to Judha Nugraha, the director for protection of Indonesians overseas at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The two were rescued off Karimun, an island in Indonesia’s Riau Islands province, and taken there on Saturday after drifting for seven hours in the sea.
“They are now in good health. We are still delving into the case together with the National Police,” Judha told an online news conference.
Andry’s wife, Fenny, said her husband had left the country with help from a North Sumatra recruiting agency after he was promised a job and a large salary with a South Korean company.
“But in reality, Andry was sent to a Chinese ship,” Fenny said in an online discussion organized by Destructive Fishing Watch (DFW) Indonesia, a non-profit organization that defends the rights of marine workers.
Andry gave the agent a security deposit of 50 million rupiah (U.S. $3,500) before he left, according to his wife.
“Since they left on Jan. 24, 2020, they never received a salary from the recruiting company,” DFW Indonesia coordinator Mohammad Abdi Suhufan said.
Abdi said the two men were verbally and physically abused at sea, and forced to work long hours without breaks.
“Their mobile phones were confiscated, preventing them from communicating with their families,” he said.
Officials at the Karimun Tebing Police Station could not be immediately reached for comment. Arie Dharmanto, the chief criminal investigator in the Riau Islands, told local media that the sailors had not given a full account of their ordeal because they were still “in a state of shock.”
Judha said most Indonesians who worked on fishing boats had no proper work papers, making them vulnerable to exploitation.
“If we want to provide better protection, we must start from the beginning of the recruitment. We need to understand that many of our fishing boat workers did not follow the proper procedure,” he said.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Protection Agency (BP2MI), Benny Ramdhani, said he was seeking a human trafficking investigation.
“I have requested a report from a BP2MI representative who is accompanying the men to provide a basis of the report to Criminal Investigation Bureau,” he said.
Fishing boat deaths
Officials said seven Indonesians working on Chinese fishing boats had died since last November. The most recent case involved a 26-year-old who died aboard a Pakistani boat in May, two months after being removed from a Chinese boat after suffering health problems indicative of forced labor, officials and activists said.
Earlier that month, DFW revealed that an Indonesian fisherman named Herdianto, had died on a Chinese fishing boat, Luqing Yuan Yu 623, in January and his body was tossed into Somali waters a week later.
Indonesian police launched an investigation into Herdianto’s death after officials complained to the Chinese government about the deaths of four other Indonesians who had allegedly worked in harsh conditions on Chinese fishing boats. Three of the corpses were thrown overboard, a crew member said in an interview with South Korean media.
The fourth man died in a South Korean hospital.
BenarNews had not reported the death of Taufik Ubaidilah, who died on a Chinese fishing boat in November 2019 and whose corpse was thrown overboard, according to DFW.
In early May, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi condemned the alleged mistreatment of the Indonesian sailors and summoned China’s ambassador to Jakarta to respond to her concerns.
“The government has a strong commitment to resolve this case thoroughly,” she said at the time, adding that Indonesia and China would set up a joint investigation into the allegations of abuse.
Since then, Indonesian police reported arresting five people from four local agencies who were allegedly recruiting workers for that boat and a second one, Long Xin 629. Officials said charges have not been filed against them.
At least 1,095 cases of violence and slave-like conditions experienced by Indonesian sailors and fishermen at home and abroad were recorded during 2019, Judha said.
He said the Beijing had assured Jakarta that cases of alleged forced labor involving Indonesians aboard Chinese boats were being investigated there.
“But we have not received further updates regarding the investigations,” Judha said.
The Chinese Embassy in Jakarta did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.