This project aims to build a greater understanding and evidence of protection advocacy, negotiation and influencing with duty bearers and armed actors by community-based actors for greater protection at local levels. This piece of study will contribute to the overarching objectives, which are building the capacity of stakeholders at local, national, and international levels in relation to collective protection advocacy, and contributing to the development of a more equitable, inclusive, and effective humanitarian protection system.
To achieve the above mentioned, the HRC team will conduct a) mapping of types of community structures that carry out protection advocacy and identify the intersection of local actors’ advocacy activities with humanitarian structures, and b) develop key recommendations for international humanitarian actors, in particular, protect clusters, in bridging gaps, strengthening coordination, fostering partnerships with local actors, and supporting effective community-based protection advocacy and influencing. Informant interviews and focus group discussions (FGD) will be carried out in each target country, as well as a minimum of six case studies on community-based protection groups and other relevant local stakeholders.
A focus on gender and intersectionality will be a core element of the work of this study. Feminist principles will inform every step of the research, and the HRC will ensure the gender balance of both the researchers in the team and the participants representing different types of stakeholders in the research. The team also expects the analysis to endeavour to account for how gender intersects with sexual orientation, ethnic origin, religion, educational attainment, and social class, wherever possible.
HRC had previously taken on a similar consultancy task, “Labour Supply Chain Mapping for Indonesia and Foreign Fishing Vessels,” under the SAFE Seas project which focuses on the labour rights and relevant recruitment practices in Indonesia’s fishery. For more information, please click here.
In this project, the HRC team will conduct a labour supply chain mapping of the Filipino fishers in the following selected countries: Taiwan, China, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon islands. The intended outcomes are 1) combating labour exploitation, especially FL/TIP on fishing vessels operating in international waters through better enforcement systems, and 2) decreasing the risks of labour exploitation on Filipino fishing vessels. To achieve the abovementioned, the team seeks to facilitate focus groups discussions and conduct interviews with key stakeholders, including but not limited to key members of the Safe Fish Alliance (SFA), staff from Filipino recruitment agencies, fishing vessels owners and/or employers of the fishers, key decision makers, and members for international and local CSOs in the Philippines.
With the potential to support the advancement of fishers’ management and placement regulations, policies for fair recruitment, and remuneration schemes, the HRC team will develop a set of policy recommendations upon completion of the data collection phase of the project. It is expected that these recommendations will help inform the decision makers of policy options to improve the current private sector policy, procedures for responsible recruitment, and remuneration schemes that benefit the fishers.
Humanity Research Consultancy (HRC) is starting a new project on researching the structural factors that shape vulnerabilities to trafficking in the following selected countries: Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Kyrgyzstan. The research is funded and in partnership with the Winrock International.
This project seeks to build an understanding of how policies and system-level practices lead to the increase or reduction of vulnerability conditions to trafficking, which involves two phases of research. First, to explore existing policies aiming to mitigate human trafficking; and second, to investigate the ways policies beyond those traditionally associated with trafficking in persons (e.g. policies addressing climate change) serve to exacerbate or ameliorate trafficking vulnerabilities.
The former includes a) understanding the preventative measures in place that ensure labour rights; b) the policies that enable accessible routes for legal and regular migration for all migrants; and c) the legal system for identifying and punishing illicit practices of the brokers. The latter phase includes the evaluation of the role of economic policies, climate change polices, and private sector policies that foster an environment that allows or discourages trafficking in the target countries. With a particular interest in examining the global supply chains, the team will also be looking at how low cost production of the private sectors increase vulnerability.
With the ease of COVID restriction, the team expects to conduct fieldwork in the three target countries in the upcoming months. We believe that witnessing the realities on the ground and speaking with the relevant stakeholders in person would definitely add irreplaceable value to our project.
Sebelum diterjemahkan, artikel ini telah diterbitkan dalam bahasa Mandarin.
“Saya telah bekerja di kapal nelayan sejak saya berumur 16 tahun, sehingga sekarang saya telah bekerja selama lebih dari 20 tahun.” Terdengar perkataan Pak Chen Wensheng di ujung telepon, seorang nelayan generasi ketiga dari Donggang. Armada kapal nelayan yang ia miliki beroperasi di tiga samudera, umumnya menangkap ikan halibut serta ikan tuna sirip kuning di daerah perikanan Pasifik – termasuk di perairan Guam, Palau, dan Tahiti.
“Saya setuju dengan anda. Akhir-akhir ini, kapal nelayan dapat berlayar dalam waktu yang lama – bahkan terkadang hingga beberapa bulan atau setahun. Walau begitu, dalam kurun waktu yang lama tersebut, hanya kapten kapal dan insinyur kapal yang dapat berkomunikasi dengan pihak luar. Anak buah kapal (ABK) justru tidak bisa. Oleh karena itu, akhir tahun lalu, saya memasang jaringan satelit nirkabel (wireless) di kapal lepas pantai saya Man Foo Cai No. 168. Dengan ini, ketika ABK sedang berlayar di tengah laut dan tidak sedang bekerja, mereka masih dapat menonton televisi atau konten influencer melalui media sosial. Mereka juga dapat menghubungi keluarga mereka di Taiwan atau Indonesia dengan telepon genggam masing-masing.” Empati Pak Chen dapat dicerminkan pada upaya nyata yang terus ia lakukan dalam meningkatkan kesejahteraan nelayan asing.
Mengapa kita patut mendorong kapal nelayan untuk menyediakan wifi bagi ABK?
Saat ini, hanya ada dua kapal nelayan lepas pantai dari Asosiasi Nelayan Tuna Longline Taiwan (juga dikenal sebagai Asosiasi Nelayan Kasual) yang telah dilengkapi dengan jaringan satelit dan dapat digunakan oleh ABK. Salah satu dari kapal nelayan tersebut adalah Man Foo Cai No. 168 milik Pak Chen, dengan satunya lagi adalah kapal Zhen Fa Li No. 8. Pak Chen, selain kapal Man Foo Cai No. 168, juga memiliki empat kapal nelayan lain yang saat ini tengah berlayar di laut lepas. “Walau begitu, ketika kapal-kapal tersebut kembali ke Taiwan, saya akan segera memasang jaringan satelit yang sama dengan kapal Man Foo Cai No. 168. Kelima kapal nelayan saya harus memiliki sertifikasi yang diakui oleh Uni Eropa. Kapal-kapal saya tersebut juga telah melalui sertifikasi Program Pengembangan Perikanan, dan saat ini sedang didaftarkan untuk mendapatkan sertifikasi dari Dewan Pelayanan Kelautan (Marine Stewardship Council/MSC).
Pandemi telah menyebabkan Taiwan kekurangan tenaga kerja. Dalam bidang perikanan, sebagian besar nelayan atau ABK mulai mencari pekerjaan lain yang mampu memperlakukan pekerja migran dengan lebih baik – contohnya dengan menjadi buruh pabrik. Oleh karena itu, pemilik kapal serta kapten kapal merasa khawatir pekerja migran yang bekerja di kapal mereka akan melarikan diri. Pada tanggal 24 November tahun lalu, Pak Chen merekrut 15 ABK asal Indonesia untuk bekerja di kapal Man Foo Cai No. 168. Sebelum meninggalkan pelabuhan, sesama pemilik kapal bertanya ke Pak Chen mengapa ABK yang ia pekerjakan belum melarikan diri. Pak Chen menjawab, “Aku bilang bahwa kesejahteraan di kapalku sangat baik, sehingga ABK merasa nyaman. Mereka bekerja dengan bahagia, bahkan membentuk komunitas yang saling membantu. Mengapa pula mereka ingin melarikan diri?”
Lembaga konsultansi milikku, Humanity Research Consultancy (HRC), menangani berbagai klien di seluruh penjuru dunia – termasuk di Taiwan. HRC memiliki sejarah panjang dalam membantu organisasi internasional maupun organisasi non-pemerintah yang bergerak dalam bidang hak asasi manusia, khususnya yang memiliki fokus dalam industri perikanan. HRC ikut memperjuangkan hak-hak asasi maupun ketenagakerjaan yang sepatutnya diterima oleh pekerja dalam industri perikanan Taiwan. Beberapa saat lalu, setelah bertemu dengan beberapa organisasi non-pemerintah di Taiwan, kami memutuskan bahwa salah satu inisiatif kami di Taiwan akan ditujukan untuk memastikan ketersediaan akses internet di kapal-kapal nelayan. Kami percaya bahwa ABK asing juga perlu disediakan kesempatan untuk melangsungkan komunikasi dengan pihak luar, khususnya untuk menghindari adanya tindak kekerasan dan menciptakan lingkungan kerja yang lebih nyaman. Untuk latar belakang lebih lanjut, mohon rujuk ke tulisan “Memiliki Koneksi Internet merupakan bagian dari Hak Asasi Manusia” – Sudah Waktunya untuk Memperbolehkan Pekerja di Laut untuk Terhubung”.
Pada Pertemuan ke–36 Kelompok Penegakkan Hak Asasi Manusia Kabinet Menteri Taiwan pada Juni 2019, Taiwan telah menegaskan tekad untuk mengadopsi Konvensi ILO No. 188 dalam tingkat nasional. Karena keputusan untuk mengadopsi Pasal 71 dari Konvensi ILO No. 188 telah ditetapkan, perumusan kebijakan untuk mendorong atau bahkan mewajibkan kapal nelayan untuk menyediakan alat komunikasi bagi ABK tinggal menunggu waktu saja.
Terhindar dari masalah dengan memberikan kesempatan kepada ABK untuk berkomunikasi
Ketika kapal nelayan pergi berlayar untuk menangkap ikan, setiap orang harus berkonsentrasi dengan pekerjaan masing-masing dan tidak menggunakan internet. Namun, ketika kapal sedang beristirahat dan tidak sedang bekerja, ABK dapat menonton YouTube, mendengar berita dari kampung halaman untuk mengobati kerinduan akan rumah, maupun menonton acara televisi lainnya.
Kapal Man Foo Cai No. 168 berangkat dari pelabuhan pada bulan Januari tahun ini. Pernah sekali, setelah meninggalkan pelabuhan, dua ABK mendapatkan informasi dari istri masing-masing bahwa jumlah uang yang dikirimkan para ABK tersebut berbeda dengan jumlah uang yang diterima oleh istri masing-masing. Setidaknya, uang yang diterima oleh istri ABK tersebut berkurang sebanyak Rp 600.000 dari uang US$1.000 (sekitar NTD 28.000 atau Rp 14.350.000) yang aslinya dikirimkan oleh para ABK tersebut.
Walaupun sedang berada di tengah lautan, para ABK tersebut dapat segera meminta istri mereka untuk mengirimkan dokumen yang diperlukan dan menghubungi mereka terkait pertanggungjawaban gaji tersebut. Hubungan komunikasi tersebut dimungkinkan karena tersedianya alat komunikasi di kapal Man Foo Cai No. 168. Pada akhirnya, uang yang terkirim sebenarnya sesuai dengan perjanjian awal – alih-alih, istri masing-masing ABK tersebut yang kurang teliti dalam melakukan pengecekan. Kedua ABK tersebut segera meminta maaf kepada kapten kapal. “Dalam kondisi seperti ini, karena mereka dapat menghubungi pihak luar, masalah dapat segera diselesaikan. Para ABK juga bersyukur dengan adanya mekanisme seperti ini. Jika masalah tidak segera ditangani dan diselesaikan, masalah kecil juga dapat berkembang menjadi masalah besar,” ujar Pak Chen sebagai pemilik kapal.
Pada masa lalu, layanan komunikasi laut tidak pernah disediakan karena harganya yang terlalu mahal. Perangkat keras yang digunakan, seperti antena dan gawai elektronik, membutuhkan uang hingga jutaan dolar Taiwan. Walau begitu, perangkat keras untuk kebutuhan komunikasi tersebut bahkan tidak perlu dibeli. Perangkat tersebut dapat disewa dari perusahaan telekomunikasi, dan dapat dikembalikan ketika tidak atau telah selesai digunakan. Pak Chen berkata: “Pada awal ketika kami meminta teknisi untuk memasang perangkat komunikasi tersebut, prosesnya hanya membutuhkan waktu satu minggu. Yang perlu dibayarkan dari pemasangan tersebut hanyalah biaya sewa bulanan dan biaya pemasangan. Biaya sewa bulanan kurang lebih sebesar US$ 2.000 (kurang lebih sebesar Rp 28.700.000) per bulan, atau sekitar NTD 700.000 (kurang lebih sebesar Rp 360.000.000) setahun. Bukan biaya yang murah memang, namun ABK akan merasa lebih nyaman berada di kapal dalam kurun waktu yang lama. Ketika mereka terus bekerja dalam waktu yang lama, kami juga sebenarnya menghemat biaya pengelolaan yang disebabkan oleh keluar-masuknya tenaga kerja. Kami berusaha mewujudkan standar yang tinggi, sehingga menurut saya menyediakan alat komunikasi dan menjamin kenyamanan ABK merupakan sesuatu yang bermanfaat bagi kelangsungan kapal ini.”
“Kami sangat menyukainya!” ujar Pak L, seorang ABK asal Indonesia, penuh bahagia ketika ditelpon menggunakan LINE. Ia berkata bahwa ia dan ABK lain sangat puas dengan alat komunikasi dan lingkungan kerja yang ada di kapal tempat mereka bekerja. “Kita dapat menelepon ke rumah selama 15 menit setiap bulannya,” kata Pak L. Ternyata, Pak Chen telah menyiapkan dua telepon satelit di kapal – satu untuk kapten kapal dan satu lagi untuk ABK asal Indonesia. Pendekatan tersebut sangat berbeda dengan yang selama ini ada di kapal-kapal nelayan lepas pantai lain, yang mana telepon hanya disediakan khusus untuk kebutuhan kapten kapal.
Ketika artikel ini ditulis, saya sedang berada di Inggris dan kapal Man Foo Cai No. 168 sedang berlayar di lautan lepas sebelah tenggara Palau – sebuah negara kecil di Samudera Pasifik. Walaupun kualitas komunikasi yang berlangsung sedikit terputus-putus, saya masih kagum dan senang dapat berbicara dengan para ABK yang sedang bekerja di tengah lautan.
Kapal Man Foo Cai No. 168 menekankan pentingnya kecepatan mengunduh di kapal, sehingga kapal Man Foo Cai No. 168 menggunakan jaringan satelit dengan ketinggian 15.000 kilometer. Kapal tersebut juga menggunakan bandwidth sebesar 2 MB untuk mengunduh dan 512 KB untuk mengunggah. Namun, karena teknologi berkembang dengan cepat, diharapkan akan segera ada satelit berketinggian rendah di masa yang akan datang – sehingga sinyal akan menjadi lebih baik.
Membayangkan standar ketenagakerjaan yang lebih tinggi bagi sektor perikanan Taiwan
“Sektor perikanan Taiwan saat ini sedang membenahi diri, khususnya setelah Taiwan diberikan peringatan oleh Uni Eropa. Terdapat revisi terdapat tiga undang-undang mengenai perikanan, sehingga banyak yang telah berubah dalam beberapa tahun kebelakang,” ujar Chen Wensheng. “Contohnya, kapal nelayan tua yang sudah digunakan lebih dari 20 tahun perlahan mulai dipensiunkan karena alasan keselamatan. Kapal-kapal tua tersebut umumnya memiliki desain interior yang tidak memenuhi standar keselamatan saat ini.”
Aktor madani seperti pemerintah, perusahaan, media, dan organisasi non-pemerintah mulai mengambil peran serius untuk mendukung transformasi kondisi ketenagakerjaan di sektor perikanan, khususnya sejak kemunculan kasus-kasus kurang menyenangkan terkait ketenagakerjaan sektor perikanan Taiwan beberapa tahun silam. “Walaupun saya percaya bahwa banyak perubahan yang telah diambil beberapa waktu kebelakang, saya berharap pendekatan yang digunakan Badan Perikanan Taiwan lebih banyak menggunakan komunikasi dan mediasi – dibanding koersi dan hukuman. Pendekatan tersebut khususnya mengingat kapten kapal dan ABK asal Taiwan umumnya belum menerima pendidikan yang memadai terkait ketenagakerjaan. Jika regulasi ditetapkan secara kaku dan keras, para pekerja sektor perikanan tersebut justru akan menolak regulasi tersebut.”
Pada banyak kapal nelayan lepas pantai, penggunaan dan pengelolaan air untuk kebutuhan pekerja di kapal juga banyak menimbulkan pertanyaan. Oleh karena itu, Pak Chen juga memasang filter air dan dispenser di kapal Man Foo Cai No. 168. Ditambah lagi, di banyak kapal nelayan, ABK asing harus menahan cuaca yang sangat panas. Padahal, suasana kabin yang sempit dan lembap tidak nyaman untuk ditempati. Oleh karena itu, mereka kemudian beristirahat di dek kapal karena kabin terlalu panas. Terkait hal tersebut, kapal Man Foo Cai No. 168 juga dilengkapi oleh pendingin ruangan (AC) untuk ABK asing.
Visi dan misi Pak Chen untuk meningkatkan kenyamanan kerja di kapal-kapal nelayannya patut dijadikan teladan bagi pelaku bisnis di sektor perikanan maupun sektor-sektor usaha lainnya. Tidak hanya memperhatikan dan menjunjung hak-hak asasi maupun ketenagakerjaan di kapal yang ia miliki, Pak Chen juga membawa semangat kebersamaan kepada para pekerja di kapalnya. Pak Chen juga berkata, “Sangat hebat, saya bisa merasakan setiap pekerja di kapal saya memiliki semangat kuat untuk bekerja!”
This article was originally published here in Mandarin.
“I’ve been working on vessels since I was 16 years old, and it’s now been over 20 years!” At the other end of the phone was Mr. Chen Wensheng, the third-generation fisherman from Donggang (東港). His fleets in the three largest oceans of the world mainly work on harvesting halibut and yellowfin tuna in Pacific fishing regions such as Guam, Palau, and Tahiti.
“I agree with you that, nowadays, fishing vessels often remain at sea for a long time, sometimes for several months or even a year. However, usually, only the captain and the chiefs (engineers) are able to communicate externally and connect with the land, not the crew. So, at the end of last year (2021), I installed a wireless satellite communications network system on my offshore vessel ‘Man Foo Cai No.168’ (滿福財168號). When the crew members are at sea and are not working, they can watch TV programmes or videos on other online platforms, and contact their families in Taiwan and Indonesia through their mobile phones with this system.” As an empathetic vessel owner, Mr. Chen cares not only about the management of his fishing vessels; he puts himself in the fishermen’s shoes and places great focus on the well-being of the foreign fishermen on board.
Why do we encourage fishing vessels to provide wifi to fishermen?
At present, only two offshore fishing vessels among the “Taiwan Tuna Longline Association” are equipped with satellite internet services that can be used by fishermen. One of which is the Man Foo Cai No.168, and the other is the Zhen Fa Li No.8. Mr. Chen, in addition to owning the Man Foo Cai No.168, also owns four other offshore fishing vessels that are still at sea. “I will also install the same communication facilities on the other four vessels once they have returned to Taiwan. All five of my fishing vessels must also be certified by the EU. They have previously undergone the Fisheries Improvement Program (FIP), and now I am signing them up for the MSC Marine Stewardship Council) certification”.
Due to the epidemic, Taiwan is facing severe labour shortages. Many foreign fishermen are looking to transfer to other industries with better working conditions, such as becoming factory workers. Therefore, many ship owners and captains are worried about their foreign crew members quitting their jobs. On 24th November 2021, Mr. Chen hired a group of 15 Indonesian fishermen from Indonesia to work on the Man Foo Cai No.168. Before leaving the port, other vessel owners asked him why his foreign crew members had not “run away”, to which he replied, “The benefits I provide are great, the crew is very happy with their working conditions, the fishermen work happily, and they’re in high solidarity. Why would they want to run away?”
My consulting firm, Humanity Research Consultancy, serves clients all over the world, including Taiwan. In Taiwan, we have long been assisting international organisations concerned with human rights in the fishing industry as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to promote the advancement of human and labour rights in Taiwan’s fishing industry. A while ago, after a meeting with the NGOs in Taiwan, we decided that one of our initiatives will be to encourage the provision of enabling communication tools for the fishermen on fishing vessels. This is because we believe that it is essential for fishermen to have the means to communicate externally, which is crucial in avoiding regretful occurrences and making the working environment better. For more information about this campaign, please refer to another article: “Having Internet Connection is a Human Right” – It’s About Time to Allow Workers at Sea to be Connected.
In fact, the International Labor Organisation “Work in Fishing Convention” (also known as ILO Convention No. 188) has also required means of communication to be provided to the crew members of fishing vessels. Article 71 of the Convention states that: “Communication equipment shall be adequately provided to all crew members on board a fishing vessel, and the expenses shall be as reasonable as possible and shall not exceed the total expenses of the owner of the vessel.”
At the 36th meeting of the Executive Yuan Human Rights Protection Promotion Group in June 2019, the Taiwanese government has decided to domesticate the ILO 188. Since the decision to domestically legalise Article 71 of the Convention has already been made, it is only a matter of time before the official encouragement or even regulation for fishing vessels to provide communication tools for fishermen takes place.
Allowing the crew members to communicate, and to enable problems to be minimised
When fishing vessels are out fishing, the crew members on board must, of course, concentrate on their work, instead of spending time using the Internet. But if the vessel is resting at sea outside of working hours, having internet connections allows the crew members to watch videos on YouTube, listen to news broadcastings from their hometowns to ease their homesickness, and watch a variety of shows and news on TV.
Man Foo Cai No.168 departed the port in January this year. Once, after leaving the port, two Indonesian crew members received calls from their wives about issues with their salary. Both of them had received their monthly wage of USD 1,000 (about NTD 28,000) as usual, but after remitting the money back to Indonesia, their wives claimed to have received IDR 600,000 (about NTD 1,170) less than what was expected.
Even though they were at sea, with the communication facilities on the vessel, they were able to ask their wives to immediately send the documents to their mobile phones and to directly communicate with them. In the end, it turned out that it was just a misunderstanding, and the workers immediately apologised to their captain. “In such situations, with communication tools to connect with the land, problems occurred can be solved right away, and the crew are also grateful for this. If we do not assist the workers when things go wrong, the teeny-tiny problems may accumulate into bigger ones,” said Mr.Chen, the owner of the ship.
In the past, due to the high cost, maritime communication service was normally not available for fishermen on fishing vessels. The hardware for Wi-Fi instalments, such as antennas and hosts, used to cost millions of dollars. However, nowadays, the hardware items themselves do not need to be purchased, rather, they can be rented from telecommunication companies at a low cost and be returned to the companies once the vessel stops using them. Mr. Chen said: “At the beginning, it only took around one week for the technicians to install the hardware. The only payment required from my side is the monthly rental fee and installation fee. The monthly rental fee is about USD 2,000 (NTD 56,000) per month, which is about NTD 700,000 per year. It is not cheap, but if you think about it from another perspective, the crew will stay on board happier and longer. The management cost caused by labour flow can be decreased if the same group of workers stay with us for a longer-term. We are all pursuing higher standards, and I think it’s worthwhile to provide onboard communications.”
“We love it so much!” Mr. L, an Indonesian crew member, told me over a LINE call (an application similar to WhatsApp) with a voice full of joy. He said that he and the other crew members are satisfied with the communication equipment and leisure environment on the vessel. “We can make a 15-minute satellite phone call home every month,” he said. It turned out that Mr. Chen had prepared two satellite phones on board, one for the captain and one for the Indonesian crew. This approach is very different from the others offshore fishing vessels which provide satellite phones exclusively for the captain’s use.
While writing this article, I am in the UK, and the Man Foo Cai No.168 is on the vast sea southeast of Palau, a small country in the Pacific Ocean. Although the quality of the call is not the best, and there is a time lag in our conversation, it was still wonderful to be able to talk to the crew who are in the middle of the sea.
Because the ship attaches great importance to downloading on board, Man Foo Cai No.168 uses a satellite network with an altitude of 15,000 kilometres, and a bandwidth of 2M for download and 512KB for upload. However, with technology progressing rapidly, it is expected that there will be low-orbit satellites available for our use in the future, which will allow an even better signal.
Picturing a higher labour standard in Taiwan’s fishery industry
“The current situation in the fishing industry is also improving, especially after Taiwan has been issued a yellow card by the European Union, and the revisions of the three fishery laws. A lot has changed in recent years,” said Chen Wensheng. “For example, older fishing vessels used for more than 20 years are slowly being phased out due of safety concerns and the failure of their interior design to meet the current regulatory standards.”
Since the uncovering of labour mistreatment in the fishing industry in Taiwan years ago, the government, industry, media, and NGOs have taken their respective roles to promote the transformation and progression of labour conditions in the industry. “Although I believe it is great that many changes are being made, I hope that the Fisheries Agency’s approach is as much about communication as possible rather than punishment. Especially since Taiwanese captains and crew members normally have not received higher education, rigid laws and regulations are hard to be understood by them without communication. These people may feel resentful towards the legislative reforms.”
On many offshore fishing vessels, the source and the usage of drinking water are also key issues that require more attention. Therefore, Mr. Chen installed water filters and water dispensers on Man Foo Cai No.168. In addition, on many fishing vessels, foreign crew members may have to endure the scorching hot weather, and sometimes rather than staying in the stuffy cabin, they end up resting on the deck because it is too hot to stay indoors. Regarding this issue, Man Foo Cai 168 is equipped with air conditioners for foreign crew members’ use.
Mr. Chen’s vision and efforts to raise the standard of the working conditions of his fishing vessels is a model worth emulating by other industries. On his vessels, not only that there are no labour or human rights concerns, and there’s a great team spirit among the crew members. Mr. Chen also said: “This feels good. I can tell that the crew members have a high morale!”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health crisis it triggered, the Cambodian government introduced a number of protective measures to stop the spread of the virus. These measures aim at stopping the spread of the virus, but at the cost of minorities, as many members of the vulnerable communities have been left out by governmental protection. To understand the impacts of these policy responses on the target vulnerable groups, our team in Cambodia have interviewed twenty individuals including trafficking survivors, Khamer migrant workers returning from abroad during the pandemic, NGO workers, and other relevant stakeholders.
The COVID policies in Cambodia have changed and evolved rapidly, and most interviewees found it difficult to follow the development of these policies. New national policies and regulations were announced frequently with no emphasis on the vulnerable groups, such as the migrant workers, which left many of them at risk of exploitation and trafficking.
Four migrant workers, three still working abroad and one have already returned to Cambodia, were tricked by their brokers into staying in their receiving country and becoming undocumented workers. They were convinced that if returning to Cambodia, there would be no job available to them, and it would be impossible for them to support their families.
The nine trafficking survivors who participated in this project seem to receive social protection support to some extent during the pandemic. However, the support was not sustainable, and in order to survive, some of them had to extend their job search abroad. Three of these survivors have even returned to the destination countries to which they had been trafficked.
The seven key informants interviewed by us have experience working with migrant workers and trafficking survivors for at least two years. During the interviews, they have found a great balance between protecting the privacy and sensitive information regarding the vulnerable people and sharing insightful perspectives to help us achieve the goal of this project, which is to support all of the migrant workers abroad, the returned migrants, and the trafficking survivors.
National policies, especially those related to health and safety, should apply and be accessible to everyone, including the vulnerable migrant workers and trafficking survivors. As COVID-19 related policies are fast-changing in nature, many migrant workers had no option but to believe in the information provided by their brokers as they have limited access to the latest or accurate information, placing themselves under the risk of being deceived and induced.
The following set out items that the research team have learned about the policy responses to COVID-19 in Cambodia through the interviews:
The policies have been regularly updated and revised, but the government has failed to put them into practice accordingly.
Most policies were designed for the general public, excluding the vulnerable migrant workers and the trafficking victims.
The social protection and healthcare services are insufficient to support the migrant workers and trafficking victims, which makes them even more vulnerable under the pandemic.
There is no proper tracking system developed for overseas vaccination records.
Undocumented migrants in their destination countries are at high risk of being affected by COVID-19 and being financially exploited.
The author suggests the following to improve the policy-making and implementation:
Relevant stakeholders and experts from different backgrounds and of both gender should be included in the policy-making process to ensure all vulnerable groups are respected.
The policy-making should prioritise the benefits of the Cambodian people, instead of other interest groups or parties.
Actionable policies specifying the rights of the undocumented worker, the returned migrant workers, and the trafficking survivors should be introduced and implemented.
The policies can be enhanced through a number of initiatives. For example, overseas supports for migrant workers aboard during the pandemic can provide them with logistic information regarding their return, food, allowance, and so on. COVID-19 testing and treatment for migrant workers should also be co-arranged by both the Cambodian government and the governments of their destination countries to ensure that no Cambodian migrant workers are left uncared for. Finally, economic support could ensure a smoother return and healthy life during the pandemic, and it must not be overlooked. The research team believes that with higher government attention, positive changes are possible to be achieved to create a better and safer environment
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated Myanmar’s socioeconomic vulnerabilities of the poor, the squatters, and children in terms of access to health care, financial stability, job insecurity, and social insecurity. The slow economic growth has the potential to reverse Myanmar’s recent progress in poverty reduction, and the decrease of household income further contributed to the growing prevalence of human trafficking. As a result of some policy responses to the pandemic, numerous migrant workers were forced to work in high-risk environments. Internal migrant workers are subjected to unemployment, forced labour, and other forms of exploitation, as are international migrant workers.
Equal Policies for All To combat the COVID-19 epidemic, the civilian government has issued uniformity orders and policies such as lockdown, gathering restrictions, and social distancing since March 2020. In 2021, the military coup that took over the government established monopolies on all three government pillars: legislation, execution, and judiciary. Under the dictatorship, some COVID-19 related policies were tightened, which directly affected the vulnerable population. The vulnerable groups such as domestic workers, market carriers, construction workers, farmers, and street vendors were unable to make a living within the next two years due to the restrictions followed by these policies. Residents in cities were falling into poverty and were suffering from inadequate living standards, such as a lack of indoor open space, poor ventilation, and a lack of access to clean water and basic sanitation. The government’s “equal policies for all” were designed to include everyone from all socioeconomic backgrounds, and it’s unjust that a number of people were excluded from these policies.
Migrant Workers According to the statistics from 2009 to 2018, 238 Burmese people per 1000 migrated  to other countries for better living conditions and amenities, with 70.2 per cent  working in Thailand, and the remainder mostly in Malaysia, China, and Singapore. Migrant workers have lost their fundamental human rights, particularly their rights in freedom of movement and expression, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Despite the existence of a Memorandum of Understanding, I have not heard that Burmese authorities have consulted with the Thai government about the affairs of migrant workers during this pandemic,” a migrant worker in Thailand stated.
Trafficking in Persons Existing legislations on COVID-19 epidemic make it difficult enough to identify trafficking victims and refer them to protective services. “It was difficult to build trust with victims who had been traumatised by trafficking and the COVID-19 disease because of our protective face shields and masks on our faces”, according to a key informant’s experience.
Source: KTG Helping Hands in Thailand
Despite the fact that the Thai border has been closed since 2020, a number of Burmese people began migrating into Thailand in 2021. Together with the victims of human trafficking, these migrants were labelled as illegal migrants by the Thai media, and the Thai authorities failed to differentiate migrants and trafficking victims. These victims were even being criminalised and were fined for their illegal entry.
Child Labour An estimated number of 1.1 million children aged 5 to 17 were forced to work in Myanmar’s agricultural,  manufacturing, mining, and trading industries, as well as on the streets. The Dagon Port area of Yangon is home to some of the most heinous forms of child labour. The majority of them make small amounts of money by collecting items such as water, firewood, bottles, cans, and plastic bags, while others work in teashops, small factories, and restaurants to supplement their family’s income while their parents are looking for work. One local resident explained to us that “the kids usually collect plastic bags and bottles from the garbage dump while collecting glass bottles to sell at reuse shops.”
Source: KTG Helping Hands in Thailand
During COVID-19, child workers suffered from malnutrition, diarrhoea, poor bone structure, vitamin deficiency, and iodine deficiency.
Dignity and Values Due to the prolonged border closures building upon the political and economic crisis, migrants can no longer work in Myanmar. Brokers and traffickers took advantage of these situations and demanded high fees from them to enter Thailand. Some made it through the journey safely, but others were arrested in which the broker neither came to their aid nor returned the brokerage fees. A criminal proceeding is difficult as only a few courts offer online trials for cases of human trafficking. Creating a digital criminal court and mobile government cooperation to find justice in cases of migration and human trafficking is critically needed. Better policies and procedures for safe return and safe identification are required by collaboration between GOs and NGOs. To those at risk from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Myanmar government has failed to show respect and value as the equity rules have not yet been applied.
For more information about the COVID Collective Project, click here.
Since the outbreak in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost everyone, but not equally. According to a report released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in November 2021, the migrant workers, who are often stranded by limited jobs opportunities and savings, are hit particularly hard by the pandemic and are among the most vulnerable groups in the crisis.
During the two months of data collection, our research team from Vietnam have had the rare opportunity to follow the footsteps of 20 migrant workers, fishermen, trafficking survivors, and NGO officers to obtain insights into the lives of and the hardships endured by the vulnerable population under COVID. These participants were chosen from diverse backgrounds using purposive sampling and snowball techniques in an effort to represent the migrant workers in each area, though we acknowledge the limits of our study.
These migrant workers and trafficking survivors are lingering at the northern borders between Vietnam and China, the western borders connecting Cambodia and Laos, or at eastern Vietnam where the land and the South China Sea meet. Some of them work overseas, such as in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. The COVID-19 pandemic had radically paralysed their mobility and livelihoods: due to border closures, they are unable to return home, and some even risk their lives to illegally cross the borders; due to the shutdown of markets and services, they either lose their jobs, have their salaries cut, or have to work excessive hours to make ends meet; and, due to the nature of low-skilled jobs, they struggle to find an alternative source of income.
Numerous policies were introduced to mitigate the public health crisis caused by the pandemic, but according to our research, many migrant workers and trafficking survivors’ livelihoods were shrunk by some of the COVID-19 policies carried out by both their host countries and their home countries. Evidence shows that they are excluded from the protection provided by these policies, which worsened their existing vulnerability. For example, migrant workers without a resident permit were not eligible to receive allowances from the first COVID-19 relief package in Vietnam. In Taiwan, it’s common for migrant workers whose working visa has expired and are unable to extend their visa to conduct illicit work outside the formal sectors, and in Lao, these workers may even end up paying a large sum of money to the smugglers to cross the borders illegally. Undocumented workers face additional fear of detention and deportation. To avoid being caught and detained by the border authorities, some undocumented workers in Cambodia risk their lives to return to Vietnam using small boats. Their financial, social, and psychological well-being are directly impacted by the policy responses to COVID-19, and under some circumstances, be further exacerbated by discrimination, mistreatment, and exploitation.
In regards to human trafficking in Vietnam, despite the reduced number of trafficking cases reported by the Ministry of Public Security, many local anti-trafficking NGOs suggests that human trafficking has emerged in more complex and sophisticated ways, citing the surge in the number of survivors in their shelters and the rampant usage of social media of the traffickers in recruiting and advertising the victims.
People under economic hardships, especially the ethnic minorities, are particularly vulnerable as they are often easier to be tricked into human trafficking gift-wrapped by false promises of employment or insincere romantic relationships. For example, in Ha Giang, a northern province of Vietnam sharing the border with China, an increased number of teenagers from Mong ethnic groups lost their jobs in buckwheat farming during the pandemic and were trafficked to China for marriage or sold to brothels. New forms of trafficking have also emerged, such as sex live cam, domestic exploitation, and surrogacy trafficking.
Some policy responses to COVID-19 have also generated challenges against the rescue efforts of law enforcement officials and the rehabilitation process of trafficking victims. According to Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, a leading NGO working around anti-trafficking in Vietnam, many trafficking survivors have lost their jobs, received disrupted counselling services, or are unable to continue their education due to the pandemic. Without these essential supports to help them rebuild their lives, many survivors had no choice but to “put themselves in risky situations to find new jobs”, despite the risk of being re-trafficked.
Behind each interview, the research team had with the migrant workers and the trafficking survivors is a precarious journey of them finding their way home, bearing terrible working conditions to make a living, or enduring the fear of imprisonment or deportation in a foreign country. Policy responses to COVID-19 around the world have protected tens of thousands of lives, but there are still rooms for improvement where no vulnerable groups should be left out. The team sees hope, determination, and strength in the interviewees, and aspires policy reform aims at constructing a better and more inclusive social safety net for everyone.
For more information about the COVID Collective project, click here.
The report highlights the harsh reality experienced by women who have been victims and survivors of sex trafficking in Argentina. Argentina is a country of origin, transit, and destination for human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. This painful reality means that they remain invisible, mainly to the Argentinian state, which has not yet managed to consolidate a policy of reparation for their rights that have been seriously violated.
We believe that it is important to raise awareness about the risks of this crime from an early stage and, fundamentally, to design prevention programmes, in which the alliance of the State, civil society organisations and experts in the field would be fundamental.
Our reports reveal locally harvested, richly nuanced insights that get straight to the heart of issues. At HRC, our local evidence-based insights empower policymakers to end forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking, globally.
On 16th November 2021, HRC has launched our first mandarin online workshop “Employing a Migrant Domestic Worker: How to Become a Lawful Employer in Taiwan”.
There is a rising demand for long-term care (LTC) in Taiwan in recent years as its population continued to age. Without a sufficient local domestic nursing workforce and a robust LTC system, senior citizens and their families in Taiwan highly rely on migrant domestic workers, especially those from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, to fill up the needs of the LTC services.
According to the Ministry of Labour, as of June 2021, there are more than 240,000 migrant domestic workers in Taiwan, being employed by 240,000 Taiwanese employers. However,
(a) as recruitment agencies are in weighty control of the migrant workers’ market, and; (b) without a clear guideline on the roles and responsibilities of employers,
most Taiwanese employers are not fully knowledgeable about the relevant laws and regulations of employing migrant domestic workers, let alone understanding how to effectively communicate and building a balanced relationship with their employees.
This workshop brought together various relevant topics to empower Taiwanese employers to become more lawful and empathetic, as well as protecting the rights of migrant domestic workers. These discussions include International Conventions and local regulations, the direct hiring system that benefits both the employers and the employees, and common questions and challenges that these employers may encounter.
Receiving positive feedback from our participants, HRC is looking forward to launching more online workshops on different topics, and engaging more people in this movement of promoting inclusiveness in global supply chains, and fostering balanced and harmonious labour-employer relations.