Fishermen ‘kept like slaves’ in Taiwan

(Representational image) A fishman anchors his fishing boat at a port in the central province of Quang Tri on September 14, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2017
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Fishermen ‘kept like slaves’ in Taiwan

TAIPEI, TAIWAN: A group of foreign fishermen in Taiwan were locked in tiny windowless rooms around the clock to stop them escaping while not at sea, prosecutors said in the island’s latest abuse case involving migrant workers.
Fishing and boat company owners were among 19 people charged Monday in the southern city of Kaohsiung for illegally holding 81 foreign fishermen in buildings after they had berthed their boats.
When they were at sea, the fishermen were sometimes made to work for 48 consecutive hours without rest for a monthly wage of $300-$500, the prosecutors said — despite Taiwan’s labor laws which stipulate a maximum working day of eight hours and minimum wage of around $930.
“The accused exploited the fishermen with illegal methods for their own profit,” prosecutors said in a statement, describing the fishermen as “slave labor in the sea.”
The 19 face charges of human trafficking and offenses against personal liberty and could face a maximum seven-year jail term if convicted.
Prosecutors also confiscated nearly Tw$3.69 million ($123,000) from the companies in back pay for the workers.
The case came to light last year after a fisherman tipped off prosecutors with the help of a social worker, the statement said.
Authorities later raided two places where fishermen from countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, Tanzania and Vietnam were held and rescued them.
Environmentsl group Greenpeace has said previously that foreign crew on Taiwanese vessels endure “horrendous” working conditions and physical abuse, as well as withheld payments and exploitation by recruitment agents.
The case comes after an outcry over a police shooting of an unarmed Vietnamese migrant worker last month.
According to rights groups, exploitation of migrant workers is frequently reported in Taiwan, where around 600,000 foreigners work as caregivers, fishermen, construction and factory workers.
Chuang Shu-ching, a spokeswoman for Taiwan International Workers’ Association, said the government leaves the matter in the hands of for-profit private recruitment agencies, who mostly serve the interests of employers.
Southeast Asians who make up the bulk of Taiwan’s migrant workers also face racial discrimination, she said.
“Labour conditions for migrant workers haven’t improved in more than a decade and the same problems will continue if the system remains the same,” Chuang said, recommending the establishment of state recruitment agencies.
In the shooting case, police have come under criticism for firing nine shots at the unarmed Vietnamese migrant worker.
A security guard slightly wounded when he was attacked by the worker was sent to hospital in the first ambulance to arrive on the scene.
The second ambulance came half an hour later for the worker, with rights groups saying his treatment was deliberately delayed.
The migrant worker’s family and campaigners are calling for Taiwan’s top government watchdog, the Control Yuan, to investigate his case.


EXCLUSIVE: US offers India armed version of Guardian drone - sources

Updated 21 min 42 sec ago
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EXCLUSIVE: US offers India armed version of Guardian drone - sources

  • An Indian defense source said the military wanted a drone not just for surveillance but also to be able to hunt down targets at land and sea
  • The plan included a new drone export policy that allowed lethal drones that can fire missiles

FARNBOUROUGH, England: The United States has offered India the armed version of Guardian drones that were originally authorized for sale as unarmed for surveillance purposes, a senior U.S. official and an industry source told Reuters.
If the deal comes to fruition, it would be the first time Washington has sold a large armed drone to a country outside the NATO alliance.
It would also be the first high-tech unmanned aircraft in the region, where tensions between India and Pakistan run high.
In April, President Donald Trump's administration rolled out a long-awaited overhaul of U.S. arms export policy aimed at expanding sales to allies, saying it would bolster the American defense industry and create jobs at home.
The plan included a new drone export policy that allowed lethal drones that can fire missiles, and surveillance drones of all sizes, to be more widely available to allies.
One administrative hurdle to the deal is that Washington is requiring India to sign up to a communications framework that some in New Delhi worry might be too intrusive, the U.S. official said.
The drones were on the agenda at a canceled meeting between Indian and the U.S. ministers of state and defense that was set for July, the sources said. The top level meeting is now expected to take place in September.
Last June, General Atomics said the U.S. government had approved the sale of a naval variant of the drone. India has been in talks to buy 22 of the unarmed surveillance aircraft, MQ-9B Guardian, worth more than $2 billion to keep watch over the Indian Ocean.
Besides potentially including the armed version of the drone, the sources said the number of aircraft had also changed.
An Indian defense source said the military wanted a drone not just for surveillance but also to be able to hunt down targets at land and sea. The military had argued the costs of acquisition did not justify buying an unarmed drone.
The cost and integration of the weapons system are still issues, as well as Indian assent to the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) which Washington insists on as a condition for operating advanced defense systems.
India, the defense source said, has shed its opposition to the agreement after an assurance from the United States it would apply largely to U.S-procured weapons systems such as fighter planes and drones and not to the large Russian-origin equipment with the Indian military.
U.S. drone manufacturers, facing growing competition overseas, especially from Chinese and Israeli rivals which often sell under lighter restrictions, have lobbied hard for the changes in U.S export rules.
Among the changes will be a more lenient application by the U.S. government of an arms export principle known as "presumption of denial." This has impeded many drone deals by automatically denying approval unless a compelling security reason is given together with strict buyer agreements to use the weapons in accordance with international law.
A second U.S. official said the new policy would "change our calculus" by easing those restrictions on whether to allow any given sale.
The MTCR – a 1987 missile-control pact signed by the United States and 34 other countries – will still require strict export controls on Predator-type drones, which it classifies as Category 1, those with a payload of over 1,100 pounds (500 kg).
However, the Trump administration is seeking to renegotiate the MTCR accord to eventually make it easier to export the larger armed drones.
The head of Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) told Reuters at the Farnborough Airshow that he was unable to comment on any pending deals that had not been notified to Congress.