The Apostleship of the Sea – East and South East Asia Region

Media Release from Stella Maris Oceania, dated June 2016:

” The Apostleship of the Sea [AoS] in East and South East Asia Region has just held a conference on Fishers from 20th to 24th June, in Bangkok, Thailand. Representatives from Australia and New Zealand attended, as did a delegate from Apostleship of the Sea Great Britain and an agent from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops making it a truly global event.

The plight of fishers and their vulnerability of becoming victims of human trafficking is currently a critical issue. Delegates from Asia learned that an estimated 4-6 million refugees are on the move. With more countries like Australia and New Zealand ratifying the UN Maritime Labor Convention [MLC 2006] the abuses and injustices in the maritime sector have reduced for seafarers but the plight of fishers has not been addressed by this convention as fishers are not classified as seafarers in the strict sense of the word. Efforts are underway to ratify the ILO Fishing Convention 188 which applies to all types of commercial fishing and establishes minimum standards that protect fishers in all aspects of their work. It sets international standards for: safety on board fishing vessels, food, accommodation and medical care at sea, employment practices, insurance and liability.

Delegates visited a fishing village on the second day where a combined AoS, Caritas, Marist Brothers and Archdiocese of Bangkok project runs a 1000-pupil school in Samut Sakron 50 km south of Bangkok on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. The families are economic migrants from Myanmar. The project members act as advocates, provide food, clothing, housing and education for the children in Thai English and Burmese languages, mathematics, science and health, computer literacy skills, religious and moral values, social, cultural and environmental skills. On weekends the same skills are taught to parents who are working during the week at the local fish processing factories. AoS workers help migrant’s process applications for residency in Thailand. A day after the visit of the AOS delegates to the fishing village, the new Premier of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi visited the same place in an effort to resolve the crisis between Myanmar and Thailand.

Following on from a global AOS conference last March in Sydney on the future directions of AoS, this conference progressed the global strategy by looking at where we are to where we would want to go. By consensus the following was agreed to:

We will call on countries engaged in fishing to admit their Fishers are vulnerable and protect them by suitable legislation.

  • We will raise public awareness inside all countries with fishers about their vulnerability and get funding to inform the people of the problem.
  • We will work to eliminate forced labour and trafficking.
  • We will network with agencies [in our case Maritime Australia and Maritime NZ, ITF Maritime Unions, Governments and other NGO’s] to eliminate this injustice.
  • We will get our local Governments to ratify ILO Fishing C188.
  • We will do all of the above in a holistic way to address also the needs of the families of Fishers.Regional Coordinator – Oceania

Mary Leahy rsj OAM

Regional Coordinator – Oceania”

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