The SAFE Seas project will combat forced labor and human trafficking on fishing vessels in Indonesia and the Philippines. By strengthening government enforcement capacity and deepening engagement among fishers, the private sector and civil society, SAFE Seas will help promote supply chains free of exploitative labor and a fair playing field for workers in the U.S. and around the world.
Egregious labor abuses on fishing vessels in Southeast Asia are well-documented: trafficked workers trapped at sea and forced to work 20 hour days for little or no pay; employers subjecting them in many cases to severe physical abuse and putting them in chains or cells. But the isolated nature of work on waters and the complexities related to jurisdiction over vessels and fishers present a number of challenges to ending these abusive practices. Labor trafficking is not always included among the criminal activities law enforcement officials look for when they search fishing vessels. Coordination presents a further challenge as multiple agencies and offices with differing regulatory mandates, as well as differing levels of expertise and resource, all seek to address this problem. Many fishers also lack awareness about labor rights and acceptable conditions of work, shutting them out of conversations about how best to protect them.
SAFE Seas will build off of nearly twenty years of ILAB experience fighting trafficking and child labor in the fisheries sector by helping the governments of Indonesia and the Philippines strengthen regulations and policies to address labor exploitation on fishing vessels.
Working with relevant government ministries and agencies, including labor, maritime/agriculture, anti-trafficking police and coast guard/defense, SAFE Seas will improve coordination and raise the profile of labor issues within government interagency structures. It will also encourage the use of multi-disciplinary inspection models that integrate checks for forced labor, human trafficking and other exploitative practices into searches for illegal activity on fishing vessels.
And by engaging fishers themselves, the project will help ensure reporting and remedy mechanisms are relevant, accessible and responsive to their unique circumstances and needs.