Stranded fishermen to come home

By: Ethan Harfenist

The 58 formerly enslaved Cambodian fishermen currently stranded on the far-flung Indonesian island of Tual have been issued travel documents, and are expected to begin their journey home next week, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“IOM Indonesia will be assisting the men with all their travel arrangements in coordination with Indonesian authorities, including conducting the fit for travel health assessments and obtaining their exit permits,” IOM spokesperson Joe Lowry said yesterday. “We anticipate the movement for the 58 men to happen next week.”

He added they will be moved to Jakarta before being flown to Phnom Penh via Malaysia.

The 58 Cambodians were among more than 300 fishermen recently freed by Indonesian authorities on Benjina following an Associated Press investigation into the seafood industry. The fishermen, who mostly came from Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, were discovered being held against their will in horrid conditions on the remote island while working endless hours on supposedly Thai trawlers plying Indonesian waters.

According to IOM, 36 Cambodians remain in limbo on Benjina. The Foreign Ministry yesterday assured it was actively working to bring them home, though it could not confirm when they would be returning.

“The [Jakarta] embassy has sent an official to meet and interview them in order to verify them,” spokesman Koy Kuong said.