Trafficked Myanmar Fishermen Return Home from Indonesia


Indonesia - The IOM missions in Myanmar and Indonesia have organized a joint operation to return home a group of 14 Myanmar nationals who were trafficked onto Thai fishing boats in Indonesian waters earlier this year.

The men – all recruited from the same village in western Myanmar with the promise of well-paid jobs in Thailand – initially experienced two months of forced manual labour south of Bangkok. They were then “sold” to the captain of a fishing boat for THB 30,000 per person (USD 935), according to one of the returned victims. For the next five months, they were subjected to 20-hour working days, violence at the hands of the crew, sleep and food deprivation, and denial of wages.

In June, while docked at Ambon Island in Indonesia, the Myanmar crewmen fled the boat, and made contact with relatives in Myanmar, who then alerted the Myanmar Government’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATIPD) and IOM. A rescue operation, which lasted one week, was then launched with the Ambon Immigration Office.

On 20 August, the returnees were received at Yangon International Airport by IOM staff and ATIPD officials. The voluntary return operation brings to 118 the number of trafficked Myanmar men exploited in the fishing industry who have been helped to return home by IOM since April 2013. To date IOM has supported a total of 15 return operations to bring home Myanmar fishermen trafficked to Indonesia.

IOM Indonesia Chief of Mission Denis Nihill said: “When the rescue was launched, IOM staff were on-site in Ambon to conduct interviews with the men and offer immediate assistance. We worked closely with the Directorate-General of Immigration to ensure that the men’s immediate needs, including shelter, meals, basic hygiene kits and clothing, were met in the months prior to today’s return.”

IOM Myanmar Chief of Mission Kieran Gorman-Best added: “Strong collaboration between anti-trafficking partners in Myanmar and Indonesia were decisive in this case. IOM extends its thanks to its Indonesian counterparts, Myanmar’s ATIPD and the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta for their response which led to these men being reunited with their loved ones.”

IOM is currently implementing a counter trafficking programme funded by the US State Department in Indonesia, while the Australian-funded Regional Cooperation Arrangement programme covers the cost of returning the victims safely to Myanmar.

Meanwhile, in Myanmar, IOM is running a counter-trafficking programme funded by the US State Department. It focuses on technical assistance to the government to strengthen its national victim protection framework. IOM is also the lead organization in Myanmar in providing assistance to trafficked men.

The growing number of men being trafficked in Asia presents an ongoing challenge for IOM and government officials in addressing victims’ needs. It is often difficult for men to acknowledge that they are victims of trafficking and for the authorities to view them as such, which can complicate attempts to assist them. Many shelters and other services for trafficked victims are traditionally designed for women and children, whose needs can be very different from those of men. IOM is currently working in the region to strengthen its response to these challenges.

For more information in Indonesia, please contact

Denis Nihill
Email: [email protected]
Tel. +62 811 8890199.

For more information in Myanmar, please contact

Maciej Pieczkowksi
Email: [email protected]
Tel. +95 1 210 588 Ext. 5006