SEA Forum for Fishers Working Groups Meetings March 2019

The first meetings of the five Working Groups of the SEA Forum for Fishers were convened on 27, 28 and 29 March 2019. The meetings will help us to build on our achievements at the SEA Conference on Regional Coordination and Action in respect of fishers in November 2018, and to put into action the Resolution on the Southeast Asian Forum to End Trafficking in Persons and Forced Labour of FishersThe Working Group meetings were held virtually via the online platform ZOOM. 

Various representatives from governments, private sectors organizations, labour organizations, international organnizations, and NGOs have contributed to the fruitful sessions and action points. Read below for the highlights of the Working Group meetings: 

Working Group 1: Trafficking in persons (TiP) risks

The session was started by presentation on “Identifying labour indicators using machine learning of Thai VMS Data”, presented by 
Natalie Tellwright, Senior Fisheries Analyst for OceanMind. Further discussions focused on WG needs to establish what kind of data would help workers representative to assist in their cases and what data workers’ representatives canprovide to government authorities to improve alert systems. Members of this WG, and how the SEA Forum for Fishers should work to get a sense of agreements that already exist between countries in terms of bilateral data sharing arrangements.

Actions to Take Moving Forward:

1) Invite Global Fishing Watch to the next WG;

2) Stuart Beban to facilitate the invitation of the Singapore International Fusion Centre;

3) Collectively agree on information sharing channel/model;

4) Connect CSO Actors/Workers Representatives to Natalie Tellwright;

5) Next meeting is scheduled for early-mid July 2019

Working Group 2: Regional Protocol for Port State Control and Inspection of Labour Conditions on Fishing Vessels

The second Working Group started with presentations on “FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA-IUUF): History, Objectives, Status, Provisions, Cost/Benefits” by Simon Nicol, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), and on “Thailand’s PIPO System” by Jairunchai Korsripitakkul from the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare (DLPW). The session highlighted the importance of data sharing mechanism in the region to support port state control practice. Moreover, a standardize regional guidelines for port inspection is necessary to be developed. 

Actions to Take Forward

1) Pose questions to all attendees regarding core questions and elements important to port State inspections;

2) Consider inviting port State inspector to next WG;

3) Incorporate discussion of fusion centres in next working group;

4) Next WG scheduled for early-mid July 2019

Working Group 3: Harmonizing Labour Standards in the Fishing and Seafood Industry in SEA

The session was started by a presentation on “WCPFC Resolution 2018-01: Resolution on labour standards for crew on fishing vessels Operating Under the Jurisdiction of the WCPFC” by Simon Nicol, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). Despite the importance of regional standard, some participants raised concerns during consultations that international labour standards are not consistent with existing practice and that implementation can be a challenge in the region. Therefore, mapping existing commonalities between member countries with regards to national provisions that provide similar protection to C.188 will be a great start. Moreover, prioritisation based on vessel type was also discussed. 

Actions to take forward

1. Consider focusing on flag state jurisdiction in this particular work stream;

2. Consider inviting drafters of WCFPC in next WG;

3. Develop unified positions on issues discussed today;

4. ILO will develop proposal for next meetings focusing on labour issues;

5. ILO to present synthesized gaps analysis of three countries in next WG scheduled for early-mid July 2019.

Working Group 4: Fair Recruitment of Migrant Fishers in and From SEA

Attorney. Eric Dollete, Chief, Legal Assistance Division, Anti-Illegal Recruitment Branch of The Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) delivered presentation on “Regulating and Prosecuting Illegal Recruitment Activities on Seabased Migration and Manning Agencies”. Philippine is one of the only countries with separate legislation for sea based workers. Participants have asked questions focusing on the cost distribution to various actors from the recruitment until the repatriation. Moreover, elaborations on pre-departure training, recruitment agencies deposit, and quasi-judicial nature of POEA were also discussed. 

Actions to Take Forward

1. Consider POEA case studies;

2. Learn more on G2G arrangements;

3. More representation from sending countries such as Myanmar and Cambodia;

4. Next WG scheduled for early-mid July 2019

Working Group 5: Increasing Access to Remedy for Survivors and Victims of Trafficking in the Fishing and Seafood Industry

The session started with a presentation on “Exploring Strategic Litigation to Overcome Jurisdictional Issues in Seeking Remedies” by Archana Kotecha, Head of Legal Department, Liberty Shared. Liberty Shared works to complement the criminal justice system by disabling networks through methods such as identifying and mapping money flow. Then Bobi Anwar Ma’aruf from SBMI shared the Current Efforts to Pursue Cases for Victims of Forced Labour and Trafficking in Fishing. He highlighted that SBMI has approached relevant authorities regarding this matter to no avail as cases are often not investigated due to the lack of evidence. Additionally, Bobi noted that most migrant seafarers do not have the patience to pursue legal investigation due to the often lengthy and complicated procedures involved.

This discussion has highlighted that aspects of redress and remedies can benefit from collaborations of members within this group. We have collectively identified gaps, how can we work together to improve the mechanisms discussed?

Actions to take forward

1. Develop procedures within group to protect confidentiality of claimants and clients;

2. Connect Legal Impact Hub and other technical advisors to members of WG;

3. Identify cases and potential plaintiffs that can be brought or test the avenues;

4. Identify other technical advisors

5. Discuss potential cases in next WG meeting;

6. Identify gaps in technical support

7. Next meeting scheduled for early-mid July 2019

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