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Repatriated fishermen line up at the International Organization for Migration office
Repatriated fishermen line up at the International Organization for Migration office yesterday afternoon in Phnom Penh after being rescued from slave-like conditions in Indonesia. PHOTO SUPPLIED

59 trafficked fishermen finally back in Kingdom

The first group of Cambodian fishermen recently rescued from Indonesia arrived safely in their home country yesterday after enduring years of forced labour and abysmal living conditions.

The group of 59 – 58 of whom had been waiting to be formally processed on the remote eastern Indonesian island city of Tual – arrived home at about 4pm. The 58 men were rescued from confinement following an investigation by the Associated Press published in March that exposed slave-like conditions on Thai fishing vessels fishing in Indonesian waters.

The 59th fisherman was a victim of trafficking, though not in the same group as the others in Indonesia, according to the International Organization for Migration’s Steve Hamilton.

After their arrival, they were brought to the IOM’s city office.

“Specialised officials with the Ministry of Interior will question the workers, ask them about what they have suffered and find out who the brokers were,” said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong.

IOM Program Officer in Phnom Penh Brett Dickson said the organisation would help facilitate the fishermen’s transition back into society. “During these first few days, victims will receive medical attention and counselling and will meet with NGOs to determine what kinds of follow up assistance they may need,” he said.

At least 36 rescued Cambodians remain in Indonesia, though Hamilton said that on Wednesday, officials with the Cambodian Embassy in Jakarta will head to Benjina to process them.

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