Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

'Productive' meeting over fishermen

Anglican social justice worker Jolyon White is optimistic after a meeting between Indonesian fishermen and immigration officials.

• Report by the Jakarta Post

Martin Van Beynan for the Press  |  10 Aug 2011

A 32-man Indonesian fishing crew wanting to remain in Christchurch until their grievances are settled have until Friday to take legal action.

The fishermen, who walked off their Lyttelton-based vessel, the Oyang 75, on June 20 alleging mistreatment and exploitation, must lodge an appeal, costing $550 each, to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal by Friday.

If they do not appeal, they will be liable to be deported.

An application to Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman to waive the fee has been rejected.

Anglican social justice worker Jolyon White said a meeting with Immigration New Zealand on Monday had been productive and if certain conditions were met, the crew would leave.

"At the moment they [Immigration] are looking at the charter company's strict legal commitment. The crew have two manning agents and if the company can show they sent money to them, the argument is that it's not their problem," he said.

"We know this has been going on in our waters for decades and it's something we should have sorted out ages ago. I think the Government has a moral obligation to go beyond the strict legal obligations."

A ministerial inquiry is investigating the alleged ill-treatment and underpayment of foreign crews.

Research by Auckland University's Business School, which found crews on foreign-charter fishing boats operating in New Zealand waters were subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse, will be released tomorrow.

The report is based on interviews with crew members of the South Korean fishing trawler Oyang 70, which sank with the loss of six lives in August last year, and its replacement vessel, the Oyang 75. It found crews were regularly exploited by fishing companies and the agents who hired them, and that New Zealand officials were routinely lied to about wages and conditions.

The company at the centre of most of the allegations, Sajo Oyang Corporation, of South Korea, rejects the claims.

The Indonesian crew of the Oyang 75 have told the Press they were constantly hit and abused verbally by South Korean officers.

Their main complaint is they were forced to work for sometimes days at a time without a break, but had their hours recorded as only six hours a day.

A complication, sources have told the Press, is the crew signed timesheets for the six hours a day. The crew say they did not know what they were signing.