105 Burmese fishermen repatriated

105 Burmese fishermen repatriated

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has repatriated 105 Burmese migrant workers, the first of some 364 nationals stranded in Indonesia. Other reports have put the number of returned nationals as up to 107.

The group landed on Sunday at Rangoon International Airport, where they were received by officials from the Central Body for Suppression of Trafficking in Persons (CBTIP), the labour department, and the Burmese anti-trafficking police unit.

The commander of the No. 6 Human Trafficking Combating Taskforce, Maj. Ye Win Aung, said the majority of the men were migrants working on Thai fishing boats, which had drifted into Indonesian waters. He added that some of the workers were left with permanent injuries from their work, and many were not paid in full for their labour. The CBTIP is working with the migrants to ascertain whether human trafficking was involved in the case.

Many of the recently repatriated group languished for months on Indonesian Ambon Island, after Thai fishing trawlers allegedly abandoned them.

Sithu, one of the migrants who were returned to Rangoon, said he was not tortured on board the ships.

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“I worked for four years and 8 months – I got paid 11,000 rupiah (US$165) a month and would save some with the employer while allocating some for myself to spend onshore. I didn’t send money back home. I wasn’t subjected to torture by the boat’s skippers – maybe that happened on some other boats but ours was decent, although fishing until midnight can be tiresome,” he said.

The Thardu monastery in Kyimyindaing is providing temporary accommodation for the migrants, while authorities continue their investigations into possible labour rights violations.

A total of 364 Burmese fishing boat workers are being repatriated from Indonesia through arrangements made by the IOM. A second group of workers is scheduled to return to Burma in the coming days.

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