INVESTIGATION REPORT: Indonesian Slaves on Taiwan Ships  

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - A joint investigation conducted by Tempo and a Taiwanese news media The Reporter, uncovered practices of inhumane treatments received by Indonesian crews working onboard Taiwanese fishing vessels on international waters. The investigation revealed that the Indonesian ship crews received bad treatments, forced to work for more than 20 hours, and were provided with forged sailor books.

    Because the crews were wroking illegally, they are not subject to legal protection provided by the Taiwanese Labor Law. As a result, the crews were not elligible for health insurance coverage or even a proper identity card. Tempo recounts the story of an Indonesian sailor enslaved onboard a Taiwanese fishing vessel.

    The invitation to become a fishing vessel crew came when Rizki Oktaviana was unemployed. Ricky said that in 2013, a man from Cirebon, West Java, paid him a visit. "He promised me a high salary and a bonus from the captain everytime the ship docks," Rizki said in an interview with Tempo on December 2016.

    Rizky was immediately lured by the prospect but could not afford the amount of money requested by the "sponsors" – a term used for a seafarer broker. The broker initially demanded Rp 6 million for administrative purposes, but later agreed with Rp 2 million after several negotiations.

    Rizky was then brought to Bekasi, to a ship crew placement agency, where another 50 people were waiting to depart to their assigned ships. Rizky temporarily lived with the other crews in a 3x40 square meter room. The room was so tiny that they had to regulate their sleeping hours.

    While they were waiting, the prospective crews were forced to fix roads around the agency's office area for no salary. They were even forced to repay Rp 20,000 daily meal expenses, which will be cut from their future salary.

    Rizky was already reuctant to depart. But the agency threatened that Rizky will be forced to pay Rp 25 million if he refuses because the documents and tickets have already been issued. Under such threat, Ricky signed the work contract.

    The contract was presented to the crews at night under poor lighting conditions. The crews were only given 10 minute to read the whole contract. Many claimed that the only detail that they were aware of is that they would receive US$ 200 monthly salary. However, they were unaware of the clause stating that their salary would be cut to guarantee that they will not escape.

    At the day of the departure, Rizky was flown to Cape Town, South Africa, where he met with Homsang, a 26-years old Taiwanese who is waiting for a fresh batch of ship crews. Dreams of living in prosperity immediately disappeared, replaced by seven months of slave-like work environment: working more than 20 hours a day, eating whatever they can find, and tortured for slacking off.


    Read the full Investigation Report in Tempo Weekly News Magazine and Tempo English Magazine