Control Yuan urges action on human rights of FOC boat crew members

05/10/2021 01:58 PM
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Wang Mei-yu (right). CNA file photo
Wang Mei-yu (right). CNA file photo

Taipei, May 10 (CNA) The Control Yuan on Monday called on the Cabinet and several government agencies to address the issue of human rights violations on Taiwanese fishing vessels flying a flag of convenience (FOC).

In making the call, the Control Yuan, the watchdog arm of the government, noted that there have been several international reports about violence and exploitation of migrant crew members on Taiwanese FOC vessels.

These include Greenpeace reports and the U.S. State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report, Control Yuan member Wang Mei-yu (王美玉) said at a press conference.

Taiwan's National Immigration Agency (NIA), Ocean Affairs Council (OAC) and the Fisheries Agency (FA) have all promised to address the problem of human rights violations on Taiwanese FOC boats but have not done so, Wang said.

FOC is a business practice whereby merchant ship owners register their vessels in a country other than their own to reduce operating costs, avoid higher taxes, and bypass laws that protect the wages and working conditions of the crews.

According to Fisheries Agency statistics, Taiwan currently has 1,100 deep sea fishing boats, 241 of which are listed as FOC vessels.

At Monday's press conference, Wang cited cases of human rights violations last year against migrant crew members on two Taiwanese FOC fishing boats, The Da Wang (大旺) and Chin Chun No. 12 (金春12號), both operated by Taiwanese and registered in Vanuatu.

While Taiwan had already closed its borders to almost all foreign nationals due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government had not issued any quarantine guidelines for the crews of FOC vessels, Wang said.

The migrant crew members on the Da Wang and Chin Chun No. 12 were unable to obtain entry permits when the vessels returned to Kaohsiung Harbor in southern Taiwan in March and April 2020, respectively, she said.

Three Filipinos working on the Da Wang and Chin Chun No. 12 were confined to their dormitories in Kaohsiung, while two of the three were later held at the city's airport for 20 days, she said.

The two Filipinos held at the airport were deemed by the NIA to have entered Taiwan illegally, and they were released only after the Legal Aid Foundation intervened, Wang said.

Those incidents exposed a major failure on the part of the Taiwan government to properly manage the FOC issue and prevent human rights violations, she said.

The Control Yuan, therefore, is calling on the NIA, OAC, FA, and the Cabinet to institute corrective measures to protect the rights of migrant fishermen on FOC vessels, Wang said.

(By Chen Chun-hua and Joseph Yeh)

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