Crimes at Sea Focus of New Indonesian Research, Maritime Security Forum Told

Indonesia - Research into human trafficking in the fisheries sector in Indonesia is revealing troubling new details about the numbers of men who have died at sea, an IOM-sponsored maritime security focus group discussion was told this week in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“We’re reviewing and assessing testimonies of murder on a large scale, the movement and disposal of bodies and the lack of follow-up investigations,” IOM expert Dr. Peter Munro told representatives of the Consortium for Maritime Security meeting, “and tragically, the stories of families of fishermen abandoned, unaware of the fate of their loved ones.”

The research, which will be completed later this year, is being done in collaboration with expert staff from the Indonesian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (KKP), Coventry (UK) University and the University of Indonesia (UI). It includes a review of IOM’s assessment interviews with more than 1,100 foreign victims of trafficking in the fisheries sector conducted since April 2015, when media reports from Benjina in remote eastern Indonesia first shone a light on the scale of abuse in the sector.

Those interviews also contain valuable insight into the mechanics of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fisheries in Indonesian waters, Dr. Munro said.

The two-day FGD, the third in the past year organized by Coventry University’s Centre for Trust Peace and Social Relations (CTPSR) and IOM was called to finalize a range of new maritime security training initiatives to support President Joko Widodo’s vision of establishing the sprawling archipelagic nation as a “global maritime axis”. It also laid the groundwork for maritime consortium work-plan, joint research and publication programs.

Attendees including representatives of Indonesia’s new coast guard (Bakamla), the national defence university, the national IUU task force, and the national police, emphasized the need for regional cooperation to address maritime security issues.

“We need to build a maritime partnership with other countries in the region; we cannot stand alone, as a country,” said Bakamla Admiral Desi Albert Mamahit. “We need to look at our neighbours, other actors from other countries. We need to have connectivity between different actors. International principles and regulations are critical, because we must work for the common good.”

CTPSR executive director Mike Hardy cautioned “there is no distinction” between insecurity at sea and on land. “Maritime security is not just about what happened on the sea; it’s not just about piracy,” Hardy said. “It’s not just about trafficking. It’s about transnational crime. It’s about all those things and it is important to have a complementary, holistic definition of the issues that we are confronted with.”

IUUF task force deputy Yunus Husein said that as a maritime nation the protection of foreign fishermen was a central element of the government’s efforts to address transnational crimes at sea including IUU.

“The (foreign) men we have met in Benjina and Ambon have been subjected to inhumane treatment; it has been going on for too long,” he said. “And our fishermen, our seamen are victims too overseas. They’re being abused and denied their salaries despite years of labor."

For further information please contact Paul Dillon, IOM Jakarta, Tel. +62 811 944 4612 Email: