Nats to deport slave-fishing witnesses

Written By: - Date published: 11:01 am, August 12th, 2011 - 35 comments
Categories: human rights, workers' rights - Tags:

An Auckland University study, “Not in our waters, surely?” was released last night. It details a gruesome list of human rights abuses, crimes, and breaches of labour law being carried out abroad the slave ships contracted by our quota-holders to harvest our fish. Now, the government is moving to deport the prime witnesses before they can testify.

Quotaholders employ these foreign charter vessels to do their fishing for them because it’s cheaper and they don’t want to invest in the capital of owning fishing vessels themselves. Incredibly, this cheap-skate attitude is coming mostly from the iwi quotaholders, who let nearly all their fish be taken by foreigners rather than employing their own people, as was the intended outcome of the Treaty settlements.

The aging contracted vessels have been sinking in our waters and the crews dying. Recently one of the crews walked off their ship, the Oyang 75, in Lyttleton claiming is was a virtual slave ship. Here are some of the reports from that boat and others:

“Officers are vicious bastards … factory manager just rapped this 12 kg stainless steel pan over his head, splits the top of his head, blood pissing out everywhere…,” one informant told the university.

“I told the Master can’t leave him cause he’s bleeding all over the squid. He said ‘oh no no he’s Indonesian no touchy no touchy’… Took him to the bridge and third mate said ‘Indonesian no stitchy no stitchy’. I ended up giving over 26 stitches … bit of a mess.”

An Indonesian fisherman who survived a Korean boat was quoted in the study saying they were trapped on the boat: “We were trapped into modern slavery … in the old days slaves were not paid and chained, now we are paid and trapped … but we are worse than slaves.”

A New Zealand official quoted in the study said: “A floating freezer … absolutely appalling conditions just like a slum … there are definitely human rights abuses out there, they are slave ships.”

Another said: “Live like rats.”

Foreign officers also sexually abused Indonesians at sea, according to the report.

A fisherman said: “The captain asked one by one to give him a massage … from head to toe … we don’t want to do it, but I am pressured to do it… every day.”

Said another: “Galley boy, good looking boy on a Korean boat was raped by four Chinese crew who got him….”

Why are the New Zealand companies, mostly iwi, that employ these fishing vessels allowing this? To save a bit of cash, of course:

The study revealed that a foreigner on an FCV can expect to earn between $6700 and $11,600 a year while a foreigner working on a New Zealand-flagged fishing boat would earn between $60,000 and $80,000.

After months of inaction, Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson and Fisheries Minister have launched a ministerial inquiry but, before it can get underway, immigration has decided to deport the crew of the Oyang 75 as early as tomorrow. The order to deport them came from the top, apparently from Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson.

In Parliament yesterday, Wilkinson shamefully tried to avoid answering questions by playing technical games over which portfolio she was answering as. She then lied and said that no deportation decisions had been made.

Before the end of question time, Labour learned that the crew could be deported as early as Saturday and sought to urgently question the minister on why she was sending the main witnesses to slave-fishing in New Zealand waters out of the country before their evidence could be heard by the inquiry. National, shamefully, blocked that question on technical grounds.

Over at Red Alert, Labour is suggesting that Wilkinson will have to resign for misleading the House. She should but the bigger issue is making sure those crew members are not deported. Perhaps a court could put an injunction in place but, if the government is the one sending them away before they can testify to its own inquiry, it’s hard to see who would push for that injunction.

These men’s stories need to be told. They could stop the horrendous activities that our quotaholders are allowing in our waters in the name of saving a few bucks. National, however, seems determined to sweep the issue under the carpet.

Update: Wilkinson refused to waive a $550 fee to let the 32 seamen appeal their deportation.

35 comments on “Nats to deport slave-fishing witnesses”

  1. It certainly looks like a lie by Wilkinson.  On the one hand she said no decision to deport had been made but on the other hand she had decided not to waive the filing fee for an appeal against the decision.
     
    Bare.  Faced. 

  2. freedom 2

    simply wishing i had a spare $550 right now

    • Whip around?  I suspect it is $550 per person but they could run a test case.

      • freedom 2.1.1

        can’t do a whip around as I am geographically and financially restricted at the moment but using the magic wires of the interwebby to get the info to as many as i can. We all must make people we know aware of this staggering episode. It is an evolving story which started life as a hard to swallow novella but is quickly becoming a groundbreaking tome of corrupt Iwi and their high powered accomplices.

        Add a certain Iwi’s wish to restart commercial whaling and it all gets a bit nasty.
        I do hope the Minister of Tourism is paying attention to it.

        • mickysavage 2.1.1.1

          Update on Radio New Zealand.
           
          The Anglican Church has taken the sailors in and is filing an appeal on their behalf.
           
          Good on it.

          • Tigger 2.1.1.1.1

            I hope that’s true ms.

          • Vicky32 2.1.1.1.2

            The Anglican Church has taken the sailors in and is filing an appeal on their behalf.

            Although apparently they are having trouble getting the $$ together…

            • mickysavage 2.1.1.1.2.1

              They should put up a comment and a bank account.  I am sure a few of us will contribute.

              • Colonial Viper

                The UN must be made aware of this report. In their next deliberations of human rights in NZ, they must consider this report.

                Can someone make this happen please.

          • Lanthanide 2.1.1.1.3

            I heard earlier on National Radio (~6pm) that the sailors have managed to get the funds required. Which was $17,000, so $550 per person.

            • Vicky32 2.1.1.1.3.1

              I heard earlier on National Radio (~6pm) that the sailors have managed to get the funds required.

              Brilliant news!

  3. tc 3

    How surprising, can’t upset our wealthy fishing mates now can we.

  4. Lanthanide 4

    One of the authors was on the radio last night talking about it. He said he doesn’t expect the government to do anything in the next couple of days, but they easily can.

    He suggested that the government make it a requirement of all crew on these vessels to open NZ bank accounts which their wages are paid into. This will ensure the crew is paid the proper legal amount in a timely manner. He said at the moment there are lots of middle-men clipping the ticket before the money eventually ends up in their bank accounts back in their home country for their family.

  5. Iwi are government chartered corporations that are opposed to the values and genuine interests of tangata whenua.

  6. Zeroque 6

    If this is as it’s been described it sounds like the government are trying to avoid a comprehensive and thorough inquiry. Maybe the crew members have already been interviewed and this evidence will be submitted in writing to the inquiry? Unsure but I would have thought the crew would be vital witnesses.

    I think the quota owners ought to be held more responsible for ensuring that boats and their crews are up to scratch and are working within NZ law. As has been said, their doesnt seem to be any motivation for them to take an interest currently.

    • Treetop 6.1

      NZ law needs to be enforced and if it is insufficent it needs to a top priority to draft new legislation. The NZ government cannot condone slavery within its waters or ignore the brutal working conditions of the fishing crewes.

      A disgusting state of affairs and I am ashamed to be a NZer.

    • prism 6.2

      @ Zeroque – Regulation good. Deregulation bad. Not enough regulation and not enough inspections and sanctions is worse than over-regulation. That can always be loosened but when conditions and standards are ignored and things get to this state nobody wants to take responsibility when it’s on their watch.

  7. Ianupnorth 7

    Hope this makes the six o’clock news, but not holding my breath. These are the disgraces that people should on the streets protesting about!
     
    Fish is a commodity; if it needs to be more expensive because the sailors get the correct pay, so be it!

    • freedom 7.1

      this will get a few syllables on the news maybe, which is why it is up to free citizens to spread the actual story, as it is with almost anything of any real import these days. The link to Iwi is the sensitive issue that the media do not want to touch, and the Government certainly want to steer clear of. The calls for the return of commercial whaling is not an unrelated issue, and apart from a few minutes on Marae about three months ago, it has not seen the light of day since first acknowledged over a year ago.

      on the price issue, fish is not what i would call cheap at the moment and i do not see how it can be accurately reflective of the costs when stories like this emerge. Looks, tastes and smells downright fishy 🙂

  8. The quota holders are just as culpable as the foreign charter operators for the verbal and physical abuse of the fisherman.

    A NZ bank account for the fisherman would ensure that they got their wages.

    To improve working conditions and to prevent physical and verbal abuse NZ fishing officers need to accompany the fishing crew.

    Any culpable party needs to have their fishing quota revoked. (I do realise that people are desperate to earn a living, but not by slavery).

    The NZ government need to make it their business and to assist the fishing crew in obtaining their legal rights and to enforce NZ legislation and to heavily fine those who have maltreated the fishing crewes.

  9. Are the fishing crewes covered by the ACC Act?

  10. prism 10

    When the quotas were first allocated to iwi there was one fishing operation on the east coast that went bust. I wonder if iwi elders and business committees took fright at the thought of losing their hard-won compensation in a business endeavour that went wrong. Then they may havr decided that they should find a different model – one where boats were leased, and catches were made on their quota with payment to them, perhaps it seemed better in that it limited capital outlay.

    • Treetop 10.1

      The sweat shop model, cheap labour, dangerous working conditions, employment law being ignored, no inspectors. These fishing fleets are factories at sea.

      There is no difference with a factory in India or Asia exploiting people as it is happening in our waters. NZ is part of the sweatshop culture the minute any business is done with unscrupulous companies.

      • KJT 10.1.1

        It is not just fishing.

        It is most of the shipping on the NZ coast.

        What is worse, is that the few ships still owned in NZ have also had to drop standards, below safe levels, to compete.

  11. Bored 11

    Its not just National who want the issue to go away: its the Maori Party. The abuse has happened on boats catching their quota. As we are all aware the MP doesnt give a monkeys about workers rights, Maori unemployment etc, they are the party opf the brown bosses as distinct from white bosses…same bloddy indifference.

    • Michael 11.1

      Good point, had not thought of it that way.

    • Red Rosa 11.2

      Workers exploited in NZ waters, fishing NZ quota, with Maori Party connivance? No wonder this is being swept under the carpet, and the crews deported.

  12. mik e 12

    Once again National is trawling the bottom again. The way NZ farm workers are treated is not much better.

  13. NickS 13

    Kate Wilkinson – Standing Up For Slavery Since 2010.

  14. Colonial Viper 14

    Want to see John Key front up to defend a

    New Zealand: 100% ABUSED

    campaign now.

  15. drum 15

    this minister is just another that is working for the rights of the corporates so as to keep the lid on the claims issues that have been paid for using NZ assets.
    Fishing being one of them and quota another, watch out for this minister as she will in her next term in office become like Carter full of hidden agendas,she’s a real piece of work.

    we live a democracy … apparently?

  16. prism 16

    These are some links from reports I was reading about the Indonesian fishermen.
    http://anglicantaonga.org.nz/News/Common-Life/Productive-meeting-over-fishermen

    and originally in the Jakarta News – http://indonesianow.blogspot.com/
    (A spokesperson from the Indonesian Embassy was surprised that the men continued to accept work from the fishing company if it was so bad. How the comfortably off have no interest in the real lives and minimal opportunities of most of their compatriots!)

    Local people, the Anglican Diocese and the Indonesian Embassy, has supported the men in Christchurch, according to community leader Dr Ani Kartikasari. About 300 Indonesians live in the city.
    Dr Ani, who has been in NZ for the past eight years, has been interpreting for the men.
    “New Zealanders in general have been very kind,” she said. “One church member has given NZ$ 10,000 (Rp 70 million) anonymously. This has been used to support the men’s families. mainly in their Central Java hometown of Tegal.
    “But the companies involved have been bad and nasty. The men have been working under slave conditions.”
    Jolyon White, the social justice enabler with Christchurch Anglican Diocese said the men, aged between 24 and 36, were living at a motor camp.
    “They are coping pretty well and have been helping the community by shovelling snow and assisting in a food bank,” he said. “Naturally they all want to get back to their families.
    “The biggest concern I have is that they’ve been working under really bad and immoral contracts. These say the men and their families will forfeit all their property and be fined huge sums if they breach their contracts.”
    Mr White said he and other activists were contacting human rights organizations in Indonesia to raise the men’s plight.
    They were also trying to persuade the NZ police that the issue was more than just a wage dispute and involved human trafficking. If successful some of the men might be required to stay in NZ to give evidence, he said

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