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Exploitation still common on Taiwan fishing boats: human rights report

2019/03/14 17:12:14

Image taken from Pixabay

Washington, March 13 (CNA) Foreign fishermen on Taiwan-registered vessels are still vulnerable to labor exploitation, according to a new human rights report released Wednesday by the U.S. State Department.

"Mistreatment and poor working conditions for foreign fishermen remained common" on Taiwan fishing boats, the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018 said. "Foreign fishermen recruited offshore were not entitled to the same labor rights, wages, insurance, and pensions as those recruited locally."

The report noted that Taiwan's Fisheries Agency and the Kaohsiung City Marine Bureau were censured in 2018 by the Control Yuan after it was found that 37 foreign fishing crews had been living in a 645 square-foot illegal shore house in Kaohsiung and were being made to pay NT$300 (US$9.77) a day for that accommodation.

The Human Rights report said that under Taiwan's regulations, the minimum monthly pay for foreign fishermen is US$450, which is significantly below the country's minimum wage.

"Foreign fishing crews on Taiwan-flagged long-haul vessels generally received wages below US$450 per month because of dubious deductions for administrative fees and deposits," the report said.

It said Greenpeace and several other non-governmental organizations had called for Taiwan to end the separate hiring system for foreign fishermen, which prompted the Fisheries Agency to dispatch officers to six overseas ports to monitor the conditions on Taiwan-registered long-haul fishing vessels when they dock.

The treatment of fishermen on Taiwan-registered fishing boats has been in the spotlight, particularly after a British NGO, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), found during an investigation last year that the crew on one particular vessel had been subjected to beatings and other forms of physical abuse and were being underpaid and overworked.

"We sometimes slept only three hours," one fisherman on the Fuh Sheng 11 told the EJF. "It was like slavery. There were many cockroaches in the food ... and insects in the bedroom. I had a small boil on my leg which became so swollen that my trousers didn't fit, and my tendon became taut. I shouldn't have been working, but I was forced to."

The Fuh Sheng 11 lacked medical supplies and safety equipment, the EJF said, citing the crew.

It also said one crew member reported that he had been receiving a monthly salary of only US$50 for five months due to deductions.

(By Chiang Ching-yeh and Chi Jo-yao)
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