Taiwan moving to boost manpower to protect migrant fishermen's rights
Taipei, July 25 (CNA) Taiwan's Fisheries Agency started the first phase of examinations on Sunday to recruit an extra 79 personnel to beef up manpower so that it can conduct more inspections to improve the labor conditions of migrant crew employed on Taiwanese-owned distant water fishing (DWF) vessels.
A total of 189 examinees turned up for their written exams in Taipei and Kaohsiung to qualify to work in different jobs, including as investigators of labor rights violations, catch inspectors, and translators, the agency said in a statement.
The oral exam will be held on Aug. 20, with the names of the 79 successfully accepted applicants to be revealed on Sept. 2, the agency said.
Chang Chih-sheng (張致盛), acting director-general of the agency, said that after some training, the newly recruited personnel will be immediately deployed to implement fishery labor rights and carry out labor inspections.
"They will become a new force for safeguarding fishery rights in the country, improving the capacity of Taiwan's fishery management, and promoting the sustainable development of the industry," Chang said.
The recruitment comes as part of a broader action plan the agency has adopted to improve working conditions for migrant fishermen on Taiwan's DWF fleets.
Taiwan has one of the largest distant-sea fishing fleets in the world. Rights groups such as Greenpeace and Taiwanese migrants' organizations have long highlighted human rights violations on Taiwan-owned vessels, including debt-bondage contract arrangements, withheld wages, poor working and living conditions, as well as physical abuse.
Taiwan's government has been under increased pressure to deal with these problems in recent years after numerous cases of violations were exposed.
In response to the agency's hiring plan, Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union Secretary General Allison Lee (李麗華) told CNA that she sees problems in the way the new 79 personnel are being recruited, which she says may end up favoring Taiwanese DWF vessel owners during inspections.
"Many of the examinees are from organizations founded or organized by Taiwanese vessel owners, and since the recruits also worked for vessel owners, it is unlikely they will conduct proper labor checks," Lee said.
"It is like being a sports competitor while also being the referee during a match," Lee added.
She explained that the new inspectors are actually not civil servants but on contract with the government.
The new inspectors and translators will likely be concentrated in the distant-water fishing ports of Yilan's Nanfang'ao, Kaohsiung's Cianjhen, and Pingtung's Donggang, the Fisheries Agency said.
There are around 21,000 migrant fishermen employed on Taiwan's DWF fleets, including around 13,000 Indonesians and 6,300 Filipinos, according to agency officials.
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