Vietnamese fishermen stuck in Indonesia ask for help

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Fifty Vietnamese sailors on four fishing boats stuck in Indonesia after being allegedly abandoned by their employers have appealed to the Vietnamese Embassy in the country.

In a letter sent to the embassy, the workers called on Vietnamese authorities to investigate the case and send them home soon.

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

After arriving in Indonesia, the four fishing 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 the appeal letter to the embassy in late March.

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 two 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.

On Wednesday (April 20), Do Anh Dung, director of the Dai Duong Investment JSC, told Thanh Nien the company was licensed by the Department of Fisheries Resources Exploitation and Protection to bring the four boats to Indonesia for fishing in the country's waters.

He said in a meeting with the Quang Ngai authorities the same day that two of the four fishing boats had been seized by Indonesian authorities after they entered the fisheries not stated in the contracts.

Two other boats could not sail because of "import tax issues," he said.

He promised the companies would conclude procedures to bring the fishermen back home soon.

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