APSN Banner

Church group seeks repatriation of 8 Indonesian sailors

UCA News - September 27, 2022

A Church group in Taiwan has called on the government to allow the repatriation of eight Indonesian sailors who have been stuck on a broken-down cargo ship for seven months.

The crew members of the Togo-flagged cargo ship MV Jiang Ye have been forced to stay on board since the vessel was towed to Kaohsiung Port in Taiwan on Feb 23 after its engine malfunctioned near Taiwanese waters, said Father Ansensius Guntur, executive director of Stella Maris Kaohsiung, a Catholic organization dealing with the welfare of migrants, seafarers, and refugees.

Father Guntur, an Indonesian and a member of the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles (Scalabrinians), insisted that the sailors must be allowed to be reunited with their families back home.

The priest said that until now the crew had been languishing, not only because they had not received their regular wages since February, but also because they had not been allowed to leave the ship.

"They just want to go home after months of being on the ship," he told UCA News on Sept 26. "Unfortunately, they have not been able to enjoy the freedom they hoped for. In fact, their families are waiting in Indonesia," he said.

Taiwan's Bureau of Maritime Affairs and Ports, under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, claimed that the crew were not allowed to leave the ship until the new ship owner sent another crew to replace them, Focus Taiwan reported.

The ship reportedly changed ownership from the previous owner, a Hong Kong citizen, but the new owner who promised to replace the existing crew with a Burmese crew had not yet completed the administrative requirements.

However, Father Guntur said what had been experienced by the Indonesian crew members was a violation of their rights.

"Taiwanese authorities should have no legal basis to detain them. The person in charge of the ship is actually the owner of the ship from Hong Kong," he said.

"Unfortunately, the crew is forced to bear the responsibility for the negligence of the ship owner," he said.

He said the crew's contacts expired in May and therefore they had no real responsibility for the ship. The crew has survived by relying on donations, including from Stella Maris Kaohsiung.

"We have twice brought food supplies to their ship in large quantities, as have other concerned groups," he said.

He said the crew chose to compromise by signing an agreement with the new ship owners on Sept. 6, in which they agreed to receive US$700 each on the condition that they relinquished their right to file civil and criminal complaints with the ship's owner.

"This is sad, but they have to do it in order to return to their families. That's all they hope for," he said.

He said their repatriation was currently only awaiting approval from the Taiwanese authorities.

"Representatives of the Indonesian government here have promised to assist in their repatriation," he said.

The priest said if they were not sent home soon "we will all be held accountable."

Fahmi, one of the crew members said in a message that they "just wanted to find another job."

"Our family needs money to buy food, but how can we find another job if we are stuck here?" said the 22-year-old.

Indonesia is one of the leading suppliers of crew members in Southeast Asia, mostly in fishing vessels.

A report in May last year by Greenpeace Southeast Asia and the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union showed that they are vulnerable to violence, such as forced labor.

Father Guntur said last year they helped at least 98 migrant fishermen settle issues, mostly related to salary and violence.

Source: https://www.ucanews.com/news/church-group-seeks-repatriation-of-8-indonesian-sailors/9889