O brave new world. That has such people in't!
A fleet of at least 30 fishing trawlers crewed by slaves is being hunted off the coast of Papua New Guinea as the true extent becomes apparent of the trafficking of Burmese men by a massive Thai-run criminal syndicate operating throughout the East Indies..................
Immigration officials have so far intercepted one of the fishing vessels, called the Blissful Reefer, and rescued its trafficked crew. Another 33 Thai trawlers thought to be crewed by slaves are being tracked in fishing grounds off the south coast of Papua New Guinea, known locally as the Dog Leg.
The trawlers are thought to be linked to a huge trafficking operation that was disrupted on the isolated Indonesian island of Benjina in March, liberating hundreds of enslaved fishermen – although a large number of boats loaded with slaves managed to escape.
Analysis of the trafficking operation reveals that the fish, which were originally heading for Thailand’s huge export-oriented seafood trade, are entering global supply chains, with some almost certainly destined for Britain.
It has also emerged that another, much larger, fleet of fishing boats crewed by slaves has been identified on the Indonesian island of Ambon – 1,200 miles to the west and once an important destination in the region’s spice trade. Officials from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) believe that a further 240 Thai fishing vessels are moored there, along with a total of around 1,000 slaves. To date, the crews of around 70 fishing vessels have been interviewed by IOM officials on the island, resulting in the rescue of some 350 Burmese slaves who will be repatriated to Burma (Myanmar). Accounts from a handful of former Burmese slaves who have already arrived home say hundreds of men remain unaccounted for.
Paul Dillon, a Jakarta-based IOM official, told the Observer: “We’ve interviewed the men from over a third of the 240 vessels in the port and discovered over 350 victims of trafficking, virtually all of whom are from Myanmar. If the pattern holds and we’re finally able to get access to the remaining men, we could be looking at up to 1,000.”
Thailand’s seafood industry is worth around £5bn a year, with the vast majority of its produce exported globally to satisfy the global appetite for cheap fish. The catches are deposited with a huge refrigerated “mothership”, which transports the fish back to Thailand. Dillon said: “Look, It’s a billion-dollar business. There are powerful interests out there who have been making a lot of money for many years off the backs of these men, through acts of great cruelty. It is not going to disappear overnight, but in Indonesia at this time there appears to be the will to break their business model.”