Vatican hears of forced labour on fishing vessels in NZ

Delegates at a Vatican conference have been told that forced labour on industrial fishing vessels is occurring in New Zealand as well as in Russia, Turkey, South Korea, Ireland and Scotland.

The conference of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Workers heard that fishing crew are particularly susceptible to exploitation by certain ship owners, brokers and recruitment agencies because of a background of poverty, inexperience and a degree of naivety amongst some migrant workers.

“Crew on fishing vessels permanently based on the high seas are unlikely to report abuse, injury or death or otherwise seek help for their own protection” said Father Giacomo Martino, a consultor to the council.

“Fishermen often have to surrender identity documentation to their master so mobility in port is restricted; their isolation is further compounded by the difficulty or lack of communication with family whilst at sea due to the lack of access to mobile or satellite phones.”

Father Martino, a former port chaplain and former Italian national director of the global seafarers’ charity Apostleship of the Sea, said a further factor contributing to the vulnerability of these people is the irregularity of their salary, together with a lack of transparency, and the fact that often the workers are paid literally with a share of the catch, which encourages them to work excessive hours.

He lamented the lack of significant progress since the publication in 2001 of Ships, Slaves and Competition, by Peter Morris. This report stated that 10-15 per cent of global seafarers work in conditions of modern slavery.

He said he hoped the Maritime Labour Convention, which comes into force in August this year, will establish minimum standards regarding social security, conditions of employment and welfare conditions on board.

Father Martino said the crew of fishing vessels based on the high seas are “like ghosts touching our cities daily, emerging from ships for the procedure of signing in, or for a quick phone call home, to disappear immediately inside the metal sheets like cockroaches struck by light; always strangers in every port.”


Independent Catholic News

Image: Safety4Sea

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