Greenpeace lauds ASEAN’s historic declaration on migrant fishermen’s protection 

Greenpeace Southeast Asia welcomes the issuance of the ASEAN Declaration on the Placement and Protection of Migrant Fishers, recently adopted by leaders of member states during the 42nd ASEAN Summit held in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. The declaration follows years of active campaigning by human rights advocates and civil society organizations in the region to push for stronger policies to protect the rights of Southeast Asian migrants working in fisheries. 

Arifsyah Nasution, Senior Oceans Campaign Strategist for Greenpeace Southeast Asia said: “The declaration on migrant fishers’ placement and protection is of great significance and underscores the heightened awareness among ASEAN leaders towards the urgency of the matter as lives are on the line. We highly appreciate the leaders of the ASEAN Member States for stepping up in their commitment to end forced labor and human trafficking practices in the recruitment and placement of Southeast Asian migrant fishers to fishing vessels.

“We further encourage the ASEAN-related bodies and all stakeholders to immediately take the necessary steps to implement the declaration- it must not be a mere formality. Let’s make it true and effective for the future of our migrant fishers and ocean protection.”

The declaration acknowledged both the migrant fishers’ positive contribution to the region’s economies, as well as their human rights as enshrined in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. It also emphasized that protecting and fulfilling the rights of migrant fishers in the entire migration cycle (recruitment, placement, and repatriation) is a shared responsibility among the ASEAN Member States. 

As such, the declaration is considered a milestone especially for developing countries in Southeast Asia like Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines which are considered the world’s biggest “suppliers” of migrant fishers as ship crew to the global fishing industry. This victory is not only for migrant workers’ rights activists, but also for all Southeast Asian migrant fishers.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia also calls on ASEAN leaders to consider the following:

  • More CSOs involvement in the implementation

In recent years, a number of civil society organizations in Southeast Asia have been actively conducting studies and providing advocacy for migrant fishers. In order to ensure the declaration is implemented well, Greenpeace believes that ASEAN leaders must collaborate with these CSOs in each country.

  • Declaration as a “stepping stone” to access ILO Convention 188 (C-188)

Issued in 2007, the ILO ‘Work in Fishing’ Convention 188 (C-188) is an international legal instrument that regulates in detail, measures to be taken for workers’ protection in the fishing sector, from the recruitment to the placement and repatriation. As of today, among ASEAN Member States, only Thailand has ratified it. Other countries in the region must follow suit.

Along with the declaration on migrant fishers’ placement and protection, the 42nd ASEAN Summit also issued two other declarations on similar matters, namely ASEAN Declaration on The Protection of Migrant Workers and Family Members in Crisis Situations and ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on Combating Trafficking in Persons Caused by The Abuse of Technology.

Photo credit: iStock/ Riza Azhari. March 29, 2018, fishing port of Lampulo Banda Aceh.

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