WALVIS BAY- A labour organisation in Taiwan and the government of the Philippines are seeking to bring charges against vessel owners and companies involved in the trafficking of their nationals.
The fishermen were rescued in September last year in Namibia after allegedly being kept for two years on two vessels.
However, Namibian authorities said the investigations are complex and they are not dragging their feet.
At least 35 of the trafficked fishermen are Filipino while two are from Taiwan. New Era understands that the fishermen were recently repatriated to their respective countries and based on the testimonies, the countries decided to launch their own investigations.
The fishermen were rescued by the Namibian Police and the Fisheries Observer Agency in September last year from two Namibian registered longline vessels MV Shang Fu and Nata 2. The victims had been on the vessels since 2018.
International sources who contacted New Era said that although they are working with Namibia to bring justice for the trafficked victims, they also want to hold companies hiring their migrant workers under false pretences accountable.
According to them, Namibia is taking too long to charge those responsible for the trafficking.
Prosecutor general Martha Imalwa yesterday confirmed that no charges have yet been formulated as her office has not yet received the docket or case file.
She said the case is not being dragged on but investigations are complex and are not only done in Namibia.
“We are not dragging our feet. That is not the case. I will not indulge in the kind of investigations that are ongoing, but what I can say is that my office gave instructions as to what should be done. Some of the investigations had been launched outside our borders and are ongoing as we speak,” Imalwa said.
According to her, apart from the investigations, it should also be taken into account that the repatriation process also needed to be concluded at the same time.
However, she said her office along with the relevant stakeholders are working hard to conclude the investigations and pronounce a way forward.
The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) of the Philippines on Tuesday announced that it had endorsed the Department of Justice and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to investigate how 35 of their nationals ended up being trafficked.
According to media outlets in the country, 26 of the Filipino fishermen were told that they will be working in Taiwan but ended up in Namibia.
Migrant workers secretary of the country, Susan Ople according to the media outlets, denounced the ill-treatment and human rights violations against their fishermen.
“Based on the testimonies that we gathered, the fishermen were sometimes made to work for 36 hours straight with only two meals a day, and an average of four hours of sleep. Their identity papers including passports and seamen’s books were kept away from the workers which is a blatant violation of the rights of these seafarers,” Ople was quoted as saying.
The Philippines government also announced they are investigating the role of the employment agencies and the other three companies which are described as culprits in the case.
National police spokesperson Kauna Shikwambi during the rescue mission of the victims said 60 crew members namely, 35 Philippines, two Taiwanese nationals, Chinese (two), Indonesians (three), Vietnamese (two), Mozambicans (four), four Angolans and eight Namibians were on board the vessels.
“The crew members, according to police investigations, were subjected to harsh working conditions without legal documentation or proper medical care. Further investigations, according to her, also showed that the crew were maltreated, worked for long hours and were even forced to work while sick. The vessels also did not have medical officers and blankets on board,” Shikwambi said during the rescue mission.
The police last year also indicated that they are in the process of formulating charges and possibly charging the directors of a Namibian-registered fishing company to whom the impounded vessels were linked following the rescue.