Southeast Asia to strengthen efforts to end human trafficking and forced labour in the fishing industry

Government, employer, worker and civil society representatives from eight Southeast Asian countries have reached an agreement to establish the Southeast Asian Forum to End Trafficking in Persons and Forced Labour of Fishers (SEA Forum for Fishers) and have committed to an inaugural plenary meeting in 2019.

News | Jakarta, Indonesia | 03 December 2018
The Southeast Asia Conference on Regional Coordination and Action to Combat Human Trafficking and Labour Exploitation in Fisheries held in Bali
Government, employer, worker and civil society representatives from eight Southeast Asian countries have reached an agreement to establish the Southeast Asian Forum to End Trafficking in Persons and Forced Labour of Fishers (SEA Forum for Fishers) and have committed to an inaugural plenary meeting in 2019.

The SEA Forum for Fishers was established to harmonise and strengthen existing efforts to end human trafficking and forced labour in the fishing industry across Southeast Asia. The Working Groups of the Forum include 1) Trafficking in persons (TIP) risk identification and alert: data sharing and vessel monitoring, 2) Regional protocol for port State control and inspection of labour conditions on fishing vessels, 3) Working Group on harmonizing labour standards in fishing and seafood industry in SEA, 4) fair recruitment of migrant fishers in and from SEA, and 5) Working Group on increasing access to remedy for survivors and victims of trafficking in the fishing and seafood industry.

The Southeast Asia Conference on Regional Coordination and Action to Combat Human Trafficking and Labour Exploitation in Fisheries (SEA Conference for Fishers), held last week in Bali, was hosted by the Government of Indonesia and the International Labour Organization (ILO). The achievements of the SEA Conference for Fishers built upon the Conclusions of the Consultative Forum on Regional Cooperation against Human Trafficking, Labour Exploitation, and Slavery at Sea, also held in Bali in March 2018.

The SEA Forum for Fishers was established to harmonise and strengthen existing efforts to end human trafficking and forced labour in the fishing industry across Southeast Asia. The Working Groups of the Forum include 1) Trafficking in persons (TIP) risk identification and alert: data sharing and vessel monitoring, 2) Regional protocol for port State control and inspection of labour conditions on fishing vessels, 3) Working Group on harmonizing labour standards in fishing and seafood industry in SEA, 4) fair recruitment of migrant fishers in and from SEA, and 5) Working Group on increasing access to remedy for survivors and victims of trafficking in the fishing and seafood industry."

The Conference was officially opened by Suseno Sukoyono, Senior Adviser to The Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, with welcoming remarks from Basilio Araujo, Assistant Deputy Minister on Maritime Security and Resilience, Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs as the co-host of the event. Mr. Sukoyono mentioned in his opening remarks that Regional Cooperation to coordinate and promote dialogue, research, policy and sharing of best practices will be vital to combat this particular crime.

This is an important step in Southeast Asia, led by the Government of Indonesia, particularly the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs, which will act as the first Chair of the Steering Committee of the SEA Forum for Fishers. The launch of the SEA Forum for Fisher under Indonesia’s leadership, and the call to widely ratify C188 in the region, demonstrates the significant advances made in Indonesia since the 2015 Benjina case.

The Conference also called on the promotion of ratification of the ILO Work in Fishing Convention 2007 (No. 188) in Southeast Asia as well as in other major flag States employing fishers from Southeast Asian countries. The call for widespread ratification is particularly timely, as Thailand announced on 29 November its approval of the ratification of Convention 188, making it the first country in Southeast Asia to do so.

Ghafur Akbar Dharmaputra, the Deputy Minister for Women and Children Protection, Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Cultural Affairs, who also acts as the coordinator of the Anti-trafficking Task Force, in his closing remarks welcomed the result of the conference and encouraged the speedy follow-up to the agreed work plans from every participating country.

The Conference was attended by over 100 participants from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, Viet Nam and Laos PDR. The Conference was supported by the ILO through its SEA Fisheries Project, aimed at combating human trafficking in the fisheries and seafood sectors by strengthening coordination and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the existing national and regional level anti-trafficking efforts in Southeast Asia.