“The Coalition for Human Rights for Migrant Fishers" Call On The Government To Strengthen The Reforms On Forced Labor In DWF Industry
Taipei, Taiwan, March 23, 2021: Taiwan was included for the first time in the U.S. Department of Labor’s “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor” last year due to persistent and systemic forced labor in Taiwan’s Distant Water Fishing (DWF) industry. Last week, the Fisheries Agency responded to SeafoodSource, an international media outlet focused on the seafood industry, and it shared the many measures that have been taken in hopes of removing Taiwan from the List as soon as possible.
In response, The Coalition for Human Rights for Migrant Fishers, which is composed of 7 NGOs and trade unions in Taiwan stated:
"We are happy to see the Fisheries Agency take relevant measures in addressing the issue of improper treatment of migrant fishers on Taiwanese-flagged vessels. However, the reason Taiwan is included on the DOL List is obviously due to inadequate laws and policies, insufficient policy implementation, and failure to meet its responsibilities of monitoring and enforcement as a flag state. Migrant fishers pay deposits that constitute debt bondage, one of the most urgent problems to be solved. Although the few measures mentioned in the media report are a good start, they cannot completely end forced labor at sea, let alone ensure that Taiwan will be removed from the List. For example, although the Fisheries Agency stated in its response that forced labor is included among the conditions preventing foreign-flagged vessels from entering Taiwan's ports, and a reporting requirement for Taiwan-flagged vessels, it is still impossible to detect forced labor in a timely manner without adequate and professional inspections.”
With regard to the measures needed, we call on the government to:
- increase transparency in the fishery sector by requiring disclosure of vessel position and the establishment of a traceable information integration system;
- pay full wages without illegal deductions;
- increase the frequency and reliability of port inspections (both fishery and labor) for all vessels, especially DWF vessels.
- apply the “Labor Standard Act” to all migrant fishers, and ensure migrant fishers are governed by the Ministry of Labor with the same rights and protections as Taiwanese fishers.
- establish a clear timeline for a swift and full domestication and implementation of the ILO Work in Fishing Convention (C188).
Finally, the Fisheries and Human Rights Action Plan being drafted by the Fisheries Agency must be discussed with relevant civil society organizations such as the “The Coalition for Human Rights for Migrant Fishers" to ensure that the reforms planned can actually solve the root causes of and significantly reduce forced labor at sea. Only effective reforms will get Taiwan removed from the dishonorable List.
Members of the Coalition ‘Human Rights for Migrant Fishers’:
Taiwan International Workers' Association (TIWA)
Yilan Migrant Fishermen Union (YMFU)
Keelung Migrant Fishermen Union (KMFU)
Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR)
Serve the People Association (SPA)
Greenpeace East Asia (GPEA)
Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF)