25 Participants Joined BEBESEA’s Workshop on Seafarers and Sea-Based Migrant Workers
Posted on February 20, 2023

More than 25 participants from 7 countries successfully completed their participation in BEBESEA’s cross regional workshop on seafarers and sea-based migrant workers on Thursday-Friday, 2nd-3rd of February, 2023. These participants represented very diverse backgrounds and expertise from seafarers, migrant workers, academics, students, NGO staff, and advocates.

Titled “Solidarity Building & Collective Advocacy on Rights of Seafarers & Sea-based Migrant Workers”, the workshop became a space for participants to exchange their experiences of migrant rights advocacy, learn about different frameworks for regional and international advocacy, and improve capacity to develop their own and joint advocacy strategies.

On the first day, participants were equipped with knowledge about the general condition of sea-based labour migration followed by governance of labour and human rights protection.

Dr. Bonny Ling, Executive Director of Work Better Innovations, said that 90% of the world’s trade was done by sea. But seafarers and sea-based migrant workers rarely get the attention until something big happens. 

“Like when the huge cargo ship stuck in the Suez Canal, and people started worrying about whether their gift will come late,” she said during her session on global trends of tackling human rights and labour rights issues in the sea on day 1. 

Meanwhile Benni Yusriza, lecturer and researcher at Paramadina University, looked at migration and labour from sea-based perspectives. He shared a case study of Indonesian migrant fishers and highlighted how the country’s different state institutions had created competing regulations on recruitment. 

Regional and international instruments for seafarers and sea-based migrant workers were also discussed on the first day. Representing ILO Indonesia, Albert Bonasahat explained several ILO conventions that can be used to advocate rights of seafarers and sea-based migrant workers. 

“ILO C188 (Work in Fishing) is not the only one. Advocate can also consider C029 (Forced Labour), C098 (Rights to Organise), and so on,” he elaborated. 

In ASEAN, there are at least 7 instruments relevant to sea-based workers, explained H.E. Yuyun Wahyuningrum, Chair of ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).

Some of them are 2017 ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, 2016-2020 Strategic Plan of Action for ASEAN Cooperation on Fisheries, and 2016 ASEAN-Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) -regional cooperation.

Second Day: Learning from Advocacy Experiences

To inspire participants for future joint cross-regional advocacy, the workshop brought along 3 grassroots and advocate organisations to share their campaign. 

First, Mr. Lennon Ying-Dah Wong from Serve the People Association shared his research on the condition of seafarers and sea-based migrant workers in Taiwan. 

“There are 11 indicators of forced labour according to ILO. Almost all of them are common among seafarers,” he said, adding that in Taiwan seafarers are mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines. 

Also based in Taiwan, Fr. Ansensius “Yance” Guntur, from Stella Maris in Kaohsiung shared a campaign to provide Wifi for seafarers. He said wifi facilitates communication between seafarers and their families back home and will improve workers’ overall well-being. 

“Wifi also allows abuses or violence to be reported real time. This will improve working conditions and labour rights,” he said. 

Representing International Seafarers Action Centre, Atty. Edwin Dela Cruz shared his experience in organising seafarers movement. From his experience, he emphasised five tips below.

First is rights education, second is collective action, third is democratic organisation. These should be followed by fourth, linkages with advocates, and fifth, global and regional linkages,” he explained. 

The last session of the workshop was an interactive exercise. Three groups of participants developed their analysis of challenges, opportunities, and strategies for collective work on policy advocacy, public advocacy, and community engagement and empowerment. 

One participant from Indonesia, Ni Putu Candra Dewi, said that she benefited from attending the workshop. 

“I got the knowledge about a more comprehensive legal instrument that will expand my options in regional or international advocacy, most importantly related to the rights of seafarers,” said Dewi, who previously worked in a legal aid institution in Bali for 6 years. 

Why seafarers and sea-based migrant workers?

The ocean-based economy provides significant numbers of jobs in East and Southeast Asia as OECD states the East Asia and Pacific region has the largest number of jobs in these industries (over 20 million) with rising jobs in the ASEAN region from 8.4 million in 2005 to 9 million in 2015. 

However, the knowledge about the situations of workers, particularly those who are migrants, in the sea-based sectors are very limited due to the physical distance and other factors that makes communication with workers in the sea difficult. There is a huge unmet gap in migrant rights and labour rights movements to increase understanding about situations of sea-based migrant workers and improving their participation. 

This workshop was conducted with the generous support of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF). BEBESEA plans to continue engaging with grassroots and advocacy organisations concerned with human rights and welfare of seafarers and sea-based migrant workers to build cross-regional solidarity and joint advocacy work. 


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