Enslaved fishermen head home to Burma

Enslaved fishermen head home to Burma

The first group of Burmese migrants among those rescued from slavery on remote Indonesian islands are scheduled to arrive back in Burma on a government-sponsored charter flight on Thursday afternoon.

Kyaw Soe Thein, first secretary and deputy head of mission at the Burmese embassy in Jakarta, said the embassy had helped arrange the repatriation of nearly 500 Burmese migrants – around 300 from the island of Tual and 200 more from the island of Benjina – via charter flights from the island of Ambon on 14, 18 and 22 May.

The first group of 123 migrants are expected to land at Rangoon’s Mingalardon international airport on Thursday around 7pm local time.

“We are bringing them home today – they arrive in Ambon around 11:30am [Indonesian time] and the flight is scheduled to depart from there around 3pm or 4pm. They should land in Rangoon by 7pm,” said Kyaw Soe Thein.

“The faster we send them home, the sooner they can reunite with their families.”

He said the migrants were flown in small numbers from Tual to Ambon using small aircraft as the runway on the island is not big enough for large airplanes.

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On 9 May, a group of 13 Burmese fishermen from an immigration camp in Jakarta was flown back to Rangoon.

In March, an in-depth investigation by the Associated Press discovered the trafficked fisherman, who told reporters of wretched abuse and even murder at the hands of brutal boat owners. The report traced slave-caught seafood from Benjina back to Thailand, where the fishermen were illegally recruited.

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