The Burmese embassy in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta says it is gathering information to provide travel documents to 450 trafficked fisherman.
The Burmese nationals are among 550 enslaved men who were rescued by the Indonesian navy after being held captive and forced to work on fishing boats on the remote island of Benjina.
Last month an in-depth investigation by the Associated Press (AP) 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.
The majority of the rescued seamen are now being cared for at a navy barracks on the nearby island of Tual, according to second in charge at Burmese embassy, counsellor Kyaw Soe Thein.
“Two hundred and eighty Myanmar nationals were moved off Benjina, while 174 remain there.” Kyaw Soe Thein told DVB.
“We are now collecting information from the fisherman. Tomorrow [12 April] we are going back to Jakarta. From there we will send the information to the Burmese Ministry of Immigration as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We will work to issue them with the travelling documents as quickly as possible before arranging transport back to Myanmar.”
The majority of the rescued Burmese are cooperating with the embassy ahead of repatriation. However some former slaves say they will remain on the island until they receive money owed to them as back pay.
Thet Naing, who worked as a cook on a fishing vessel, said: “I have been in Indonesia for five years. Just seven days of that I spent ashore in Thailand. Of course, I want to go home. But what about my payments for all those years? I won’t go until I am paid for my work.”
According to the Burmese embassy in Jakarta, a team made up of Burmese police, immigration and anti-trafficking officers, and further rehabilitation service officials will arrive to Indonesia to aid the trafficked men as they await repatriation.