More Trafficked Fishermen Helped Home from Slavery in Asian Waters


Cambodia - IOM has helped 54 Cambodian fishermen – victims of human slavery – back home to Cambodia. The men arrived yesterday from Indonesia and were give temporary accommodation, medical check-ups and treatment, which included access to a psychologist, as many are disoriented and a few traumatized after their ordeal.

In the coming days they will be reunited with their families and referred onto local government and NGO service providers in their home provinces.

On April 12, Indonesian authorities seized three foreign fishing vessels operating illegally in their waters and transferred their crew of 150 to an immigration detention facility in Pontianak, West Kalimantan. IOM staff met 78 members of the crew, including the men repatriated this week, and assessed they were victims of trafficking.

The Cambodians revealed that they migrated to Thailand with the help of local brokers who promised them good wages and work conditions on fishing trawlers. However, after six months of enduring inhuman hours and appalling work conditions where they were forced to perform dangerous work without proper safety equipment, they were only paid a fraction of the wages owed to them.

The rescue, rehabilitation and safe return home is – sadly – not the end of the story for many of these vulnerable migrants. Most of the 2,000 trafficking survivors IOM has worked with over the past year from the regional fishing industry have faced limited employment opportunities at home, debt, and mental or physical illness without access to proper care or treatment.  After surviving months or years of exploitation, they are confronted with the realities they sought to escape – unemployment, augmented by debt – and without proper reintegration support.

Based on a recent IOM study of the health consequences of human trafficking, more than 50 percent of male trafficking survivors returning from the fishing industry show symptoms of depression and anxiety, with 48 percent demonstrating symptoms suggestive of a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after experiencing years of violence and physical abuse at the hands of their employers and recruiters.

An estimated 20-30 percent of returnees were again driven to migrate internally in search of work, including some who have already returned to Thailand where they face the risk of being re-trafficked, exploited and abused all over again.

IOM is coordinating with national and provincial governments, and international and local NGOs to provide the necessary long-term reintegration support needed to prevent further harm coming to the survivors and reducing the likelihood they will be re-trafficked.

IOM Cambodia in its anti-trafficking activities are supported by Australia and the United States.

For further information please contact Brett Dickson at IOM Cambodia, Tel: +855122 22132 Email:

IOM briefs Cambodian fishermen released from slavery aboard Thai fishing boats. Photo: IOM 2016