The Fisheries Agency reiterates the determination to combat human trafficking and safeguard rights and benefits of foreign crew members employed overseas
To fulfill the task of combating human trafficking and safeguarding rights and benefits of foreign crew members employed overseas, the Fisheries Agency noted that by the end of this year (2018), it will survey at least 80 distant water fishing vessels and interview at least 450 foreign crew members employed overseas. In addition, the Agency will conduct annual review on more than 50% of the approved employment agents to verify whether the fisheries operators and agents that employ foreign crew members overseas comply with the “Regulations on the Authorization and Management of Overseas Employment of Foreign Crew Members”. The Agency urges all relevant industry and agents to pay the wages, provide insurance, and arrange rest time and holidays for the foreign crew members in accordance with the Regulations. Deducting wages or charging fees under false pretense is prohibited. In case of any infringement is found, the Agency will impose severe penalties on the violator.
The Fisheries Agency further noted that since the Regulations entered into force on 20 January 2017, the rights and benefits of foreign crew members employed overseas has been further upheld, with the measures adopted such as minimum wages (450 US Dollars per month), minimum rest time (minimum daily rest time of 10 hours and four days off per month is required), insurance (including accident, medical and life insurance, and the insured amount of the life insurance shall not be less than one million New Taiwan Dollars), and the transportation fees of the return trip to crew’s home country to be borne by the fisheries operators. To fulfill the requirements, in addition to those interviews conducted by the fishing inspectors, taking advantage of conducting landing inspection at both domestic and foreign ports, the Agency has further recruited dedicated surveyors to interview foreign crews, with the assistance of professional interpreters. Besides, more fishery officers are dispatched to stations abroad this year, aiming at fortifying the investigation capacity. Notably, the task of interviewing foreign crew members has also been included in the mission of high seas boarding and inspection in the Pacific Ocean this year, with intention to extend the momentum of inspection further to the vessels at sea. Moreover, the Agency has consulted the Ministry of Labor, and consensus has been reached that when a distant water fishing vessel enters into a domestic port, the Ministry of Labor and this Agency will conduct investigation and inspection based on the legal assignment and liability respectively.
To date, the Fisheries Agency has surveyed 65 distant water fishing vessels and has interviewed 133 foreign crew members. Among whom, the Agency has assisted in retrieving seven passports and outstanding salary of 8,340 US Dollars. For the case of being charged of deposit (or guarantee bond), the Agency has also retrieved 1,596 US Dollars.
The establishment of hotlines to transparentize complaint filing channels
For the purpose of deterring the fisheries operators from concealing significant information, imposing illegal debt restriction, detaining important documents, or forcing labor by making use of the crew member’s disadvantaged situation, the Fisheries Agency indicated that it has printed and distributed educational cards to foreign crew members, which allow them to understand their own rights and benefits much better. The Agency has also established compliant filing channels for crew members onboard distant water fishing vessels (dial 1955 for domestic calls, or +886-2-8073-3141 for international calls), which allow them to promptly reflect any mistreatment they may suffer.
In view that some civic groups have concerned overseas employment policy of foreign crew member for long, the Fisheries Agency has invited relevant groups to a meeting in mid-May this year, during which participants have duly expressed their opinions and thoughts and recognized such meeting as a beneficial communication platform for enhancing rights and benefits of foreign crew members. The Agency will therefore continue to invite the relevant authorities and groups to have such meetings in the future for reviewing and enhancing its management on the foreign crew members employed overseas. The Agency lastly reiterated that fulfilling the “Regulations on the Authorization and Management of Overseas Employment of Foreign Crew Members”, combating human trafficking and safeguarding rights and benefits of foreign crew members are the core values of the Government. With foreign crew members acting as important partners of Taiwan’s distant water fisheries, the Agency is reluctant to see the infringements committed by few fisheries operators causing negative influence on the whole image of the industry. The Agency will accordingly strengthen its enforcement on combating such illicit fisheries operators, to carry out human rights protection and ensure the sustainable development of the industry.
Contact person: Kuo-Ping Lin, Deputy Director-General