Recently, a report surfaced that signalled that fishing company Pusaka Benjina Resources - the only official fishing operation on Benjina Island - was suspected of using forced labour and physically abusing hundreds of foreign workers, mainly from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. Allegedly, these workers (most of whom were underage) were forced to work without pay (sometimes working up to 22 hours per day), were whipped, even held in cages and forbidden to return home or inform anyone about the maltreatment.

Location of Benjina Island:

After the surfacing of this report, Indonesia’s Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti immediately reacted by launching an investigation. Herman Wir Martino, Operational Chief at Pusaka Benjina Resources, was quoted in local media denying accusations of slavery. Although he admitted that maltreatment of the company’s workers was true, he denied accusations that the workers were not paid and were held in cages. Martino added that tough and inhumane treatment are normal practices among workers at sea in the eastern region of Indonesia. He also confirmed that workers from Myanmar had died while working for Pusaka Benjina Resources. Indonesian Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said that other companies in the area are also suspected of using slave labour.

Indonesia’s National Police will charge Pusaka Benjina Resources with human trafficking and violating the manpower law.

Yoseph Sairlela, who was found dead in Jakarta on Saturday (18/04), was an adviser at Indonesia’s Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry who was responsible for monitoring the seas around the port of Benjina in the Arafura Sea. In these remote areas around the Moluccas it is an open secret that illegal fishery and corrupt officials are rampant issues.