Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rescues of trafficked migrant workers surge

Rescues of trafficked migrant workers surge

A group of migrant fisherman return to Phnom Penh after being rescued from Indonesia last year. Photo supplied
A group of migrant fisherman return to Phnom Penh after being rescued from Indonesia last year. Photo supplied

Rescues of trafficked migrant workers surge

More than 500 trafficked Cambodian migrant workers were rescued abroad and sent home in 2015, a huge increase compared to 2014 numbers, though largely attributable to a handful of mass repatriations from Indonesia.

According to a report by the Foreign Ministry, 573 workers were returned home in 2015, a 327 per cent increase from 134 in 2014.

The jump was primarily due to the repatriation of 427 fishermen from Indonesia in the wake of an Associated Press investigation into slave-like conditions aboard fishing boats working in that country’s waters. Just 23 Cambodians were returned from Indonesia in 2014.

Meanwhile, some 82 were rescued from China in 2015, compared with 59 the year before, while 55 were rescued from Malaysia in 2015, compared to 34 in 2014.

The rest of the repatriated workers numbered in the single digits and were rescued from Saudi Arabia, Papua New Guinea and South Africa.

Figures were not provided for Thailand, a major destination for Cambodian migrant workers, because Thai authorities repatriate tens of thousands of Cambodians themselves every year.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Chum Sunry yesterday said the jump was due both to increased trafficking activity and more vigorous enforcement.

“[The workers] encounter mistreatment, labour exploitation, abuse, withheld salaries, long hours, and that’s why they seek our embassies to help them get back to their homeland,” he said.

“The embassies are busy helping workers, that’s why [Foreign] Minister Hor Namhong always phones the ambassador directly to help workers who meet mistreatment and need help.”

But Dy Thehoya, a program officer at labour rights group Central, said he hadn’t observed a noticeable push from the government on repatriating workers.

He attributed 2015’s increase entirely to pressure from the European Union and the press on the Thai and Indonesian governments to crack down on trawlers that force workers, mostly from Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, to work in slave-like conditions off the Indonesian coast.

On the heels of the Associated Press investigation in April, the European Union threatened to ban all Thai seafood imports, and hundreds of fishermen were repatriated to their home countries over the next few months.

“Only the fishermen in Indonesia saw attention, because of the pressure from the EU,” said Thehoya, adding that Cambodian embassies needed to increase their staff and punish corrupt embassy workers to truly address the problem.

During the ruling Cambodian People’s Party congress last weekend, Prime Minister Hun Sen also warned that Cambodian embassy staffers who do not help workers would be fired, according to a Facebook post by Information Minister Khieu Kanharith.

Lim Mony, deputy chief of the women’s division for rights group Adhoc, said there remained “many workers and maids who are still facing difficulties abroad – and they need help”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration