In Thailand, low-skilled migrants often end up as slaves working strenuous hours in life threatening-conditions with little or no pay for the Thai fishing industry, national surveys show.
Migrants usually choose to work for the fishing industry because they have no other option since many non qualified jobs are already taken by locals. But many of those migrants are touted by well-dressed people who promise a stable job and decent pay in the fishing industry.
Instead those people are human trafficking brokers who later sell migrants to businessmen who look for cheap labor on their illegal fishing vessels. Some of those migrants manage to escape the vessels and tell their stories, others end up dead or lost.
One of those people said in an interview that he planned to work on a fishing vessel for a year. Instead he was held captive for five more years. During that period, he was forced to work 20 hours a day and almost died in the process.
He recalls that he contemplated suicide many times. But fortunately, the boat he was on was seized by local authorities last month for suspicions of unlawfully fishing.
He said that since early January when he was trafficked he only saw land on very few occasions since the vessel he was on kept cruising farther from shores in search for fish banks that became increasingly scarce.
But the man’s ordeal is not unique. Thousands more have to get through similar painful experiences to feed a multibillion industry that provides Western countries with fish and seafood.
Trafficked migrants share the same story. Many of them were sleep deprived, intimidated and even beaten on a regular basis. Authorities often discover beaten or badly injured people on fishing vessels.
Usually, those people are trafficked under fake IDs, so if they do manage to escape they find themselves stranded on Indonesian islands on which many of them die and get buried under the fake names.
But while some get lucky and manage to request help from Thai authorities to get them back in the country, others fail to do so because they do not know anyone and/or have no money.
One trafficked fisherman said that after years of captivity he received $53 as payment from the captain of the vessel, but was immediately urged to pay the “broker” more than $600 for his services of bringing him on the boat.
Thailand’s Labor Rights Promotion Network (LPN), which fights for the rights of such people, reported that there are many other similar cases. The group said that it had found hundreds of captive fishermen working in hellish conditions on a nearby island.
According to LPN, about 3,000 of human trafficking victims may work in desperate conditions for the Thai fishing industry.
“[The fishermen] have forged or no documents so can’t return home. The situation is severe,”
a LPN spokesperson said.
But the situation is much worse, according to other statistics. Thai government reports show that about 145,000 people are currently working in the state’s fishing industry. About 80 percent of those people are poor migrants from Laos, Cambodia or Myanmar. But a separate human rights group’s survey revealed that nearly 200,000 more are not listed on the official statistics because they are either trafficked or unregistered.
Image Source: World Fishing