This reality is saddening
Bogor, W Java (ANTARA) - The horrific news on three Indonesian sailors on board of two Chinese fishing vessels who died in December 2019 and March 2020 and then their bodies were buried at sea has gone viral in South Korea after MBC, a local TV station, broadcast it in its news bulletin.

The news on the deaths of the Indonesians working aboard Long Xin 629 and Long Xin 604 while the fishing boats were sailing in the Pacific Ocean has shocked the Indonesian public as it occurred when all Indonesians are busily battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new coronavirus disease itself initially struck the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019 but due to China's lack of transparency and goodwill to tell the truth from the beginning that it may transmit from human-to-human, it then spreads across the world.

The US Government whose many of its citizens die of the COVID-19 has alleged the Chinese Government of having "intentionally concealed the severity of the coronavirus from the international community" (CNN, May 4, 2020).

Washington argued that "China likely cut its exports of medical supplies prior to its January WHO (World Health Organization) notification that COVID-19 is a contagion", according to a Department of Homeland Security report that CNN quoted on May 4.

The coronavirus pandemic is not merely related to public health issues but also to geo-political and economic ones. The COVID-19 has disrupted businesses in various sectors, and global supply chains partly due to lockdowns and large-scale travel restrictions.

As a result, the livelihoods of so many ordinary Indonesian families severely get effected because the heads of families get laid off or forcibly stop their business activities. Many of them then fall from middle class into poverty.

Amid this challenging situation, millions of Indonesians get informed on the horrific news on the Indonesian sailors working for the Chinese fishing vessels thanks to MBC's news bulletin, and a South Korean Youtuber named Jang Hansol.

According to one of the Indonesian seafarers who was interviewed by MBC, they had been treated discriminately, and the working condition was so bad.

What these Indonesian sailors experienced when working for Chinese fishing vessels Long Xin 605, Long Xin 629, and Tian Yu 8 bore evidence of human rights violations because they were robbed of their basic rights to live, according to Migrant CARE.

The situation served as evidence of the real working conditions of Indonesian migrant workers, particularly those working in the maritime sector, Migrant CARE Executive Director Wahyu Susilo remarked.

Indonesian migrant workers in the maritime and fisheries sectors remain vulnerable to modern slavery practices. The Global Slavery Index, issued by Walk Free (2014-2016), an initiative Migrant CARE was part of, also reveals this fact, said Susilo.

According to the Global Slavery Index (2014-2016), several hundred thousand Indonesian crew working on board fishing vessels are trapped in modern slavery.

If such practices can still be found until this present time, the situation has remained unchanged. "This reality is saddening," Susilo said.

Actually in 2015, the Indonesian Government had launched an investigation into an alleged slavery case by Thai firm PT Pusaka Benjina Resource (PBR), based in Aru Island, Maluku Province.

However, the government's move was yet to touch the fate of Indonesian seafarers working on foreign fishing vessels, Susilo pointed out.

Prior to the deaths of the Indonesian seafarers working on Chinese fishing vessels, many Indonesians employed on cruise ships had contracted the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and lost their jobs.

The BP2MI recorded that more than 6,000 Indonesian crew members were laid off, Susilo added.

Regarding this Chinese boat abuse case, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi revealed that the Indonesian Government was handling the protection of 46 Indonesian crew members and cases of three Indonesian crew, whose bodies were buried at sea.

Apart from this move, the Migrant CARE, however, is of the opinion that the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs' response to this case remains normative because it had yet to touch the root of the problem.

Related news: China argues Indonesian crew's sea burial meets ILO rules

Related news: Need to probe Indonesian crew deaths on Chinese boats: watchdog

The Migrant CARE also claimed in its press statement that ANTARA received on Thursday that the Workforce Ministry and the Agency for the Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BP2MI) had yet to respond to matters concerning the Indonesians seafarers.

There was also no push for a probe into the alleged human rights violations, and a strong statement to ensure that all crew members' rights were upheld.

Therefore, the Migrant CARE suggested that Indonesia propose an investigation into alleged violations of Indonesian crew's human rights on board Chinese fishing vessels, including the recent deaths of three Indonesians seafarers buried at sea.

Learning from the case of the COVID-19 pandemic where the USA and many other countries, including Australia, have demanded China's transparency on the origin of the coronavirus, and accountability for the sufferings it has caused, Indonesia need also do the same.

Indonesia must also be able to force Beijing to be transparent and accountable for what its citizens, the owners and skippers of the fishing boats, have inhumanely done to the Indonesian seafarers.

Related news: Unraveling truth behind Indonesian seafarers' deaths on Chinese boats

Related news: Long Xing's 14 Indonesian crew flown home from South Korea

Editor: Fardah Assegaf
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