Fishermen stuck in Indonesia head home

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Thirty of 50 Vietnamese fishermen on four fishing boats stuck in Indonesia since early this year are on the way home, Vietnam's Directorate of Fisheries said in a release Wednesday.

The Dai Duong Investment Joint Stock Company, one of the two companies that sent the Vietnamese fishing boats to Indonesia, on April 28 completed procedures to bring the 30 crew members on two fishing boats back home, the office said.

It said the remaining boats with 20 fishermen are still in Indonesia due to "import tax issues," adding that it has asked the Vietnamese Embassy in Indonesia to help.

The fishermen, hailing from the coastal provinces of Quang Ngai and Binh Thuan, arrived in Indonesia January 24 under fishing contracts with the Dai Duong company based in Binh Dinh Province and Dong Do Trading Limited Company in Ho Chi Minh City.

The companies were licensed by the Department of Fisheries Resources Exploitation and Protection under D-Fish to bring the four boats to Indonesia for fishing in the country's waters.

After arriving in Indonesia, the four boats had their IMO numbers changed and were abandoned for two months. With little food and money left, the fishermen took shelter in a local church. Some fell ill and had no access to medical facilities.

They sent a letter to the Vietnamese Embassy in Indonesia late March, calling for Vietnamese authorities to investigate the case and send them home.

Le Van Hanh, captain of one of the fishing boats, wrote in the letter that the fishermen had mortgaged their houses and borrowed money from relatives to raise VND600 million (US$28,700) for labor export fees paid to the companies.

The two sides also agreed that they would pay another $20,000 deposit for each boat to the companies after arriving in Indonesia. The boat owners would get the money back if they decided not to renew the fishing contracts after a year, according to an oral agreement made with the companies.

After the boats docked at Indonesian port, the companies' directors Do Anh Dung and Nguyen Tran Bien more than doubled the deposit to $55,000. Since the fishermen could not afford the new fees, the companies agreed to send the boats back to Vietnam and reimburse the fees already paid.

However, two months passed without any action to assist the fishermen in returning home.

Meanwhile, in the May 11 release, D-Fish said the four boats had been seized by Indonesian authorities after the captains entered areas not stated in the contracts.

The same accusation was made by the two companies against the fishermen.

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