Jakarta (Indonesia Window) – The Taiwanese government on Friday (Aug. 20) helped repatriate 105 Indonesian crew members who were stranded on ships in the waters around Taiwan to return home by special aircraft.
The help implements Taiwan’s concept of protecting international human rights and human values under the New Southbound Policy, according to a written statement from the Taipei Economic and Trade Office received here on Saturday.
The statement said that currently there are around 250,000 crew members stranded in sea waters globally, and unable to return to their home countries due to obstacles caused by the pandemic.
Such international organizations as the United Nations and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have expressed concerns about that issue.
A report from the Indonesian Trade and Economic Representative Office in Taipei (KADEI) in March this year stated that there were many Indonesian crew members working on foreign vessels in waters near Taiwan whose contracts had expired.
However, the ship owner and the country where the ship is registered have not handled the issue properly, making it difficult for the crew members to return to their homeland, causing negative impacts on their physical and mental health.
KADEI also understands that in order to ensure anti-pandemic security at the border, Taiwan only allows Taiwanese vessels and foreign crew members on vessels invested and operated by Taiwan to exchange crew in Taiwan.
However, the Indonesian office still hoped that Taiwan could consider humanitarian reasons to help repatriate Indonesian crew members back to their home country.
After receiving the report, the Taiwanese government immediately held inter-ministerial coordination meetings to clarify rights and responsibilities, and develop a relief plan.
According to the International Maritime Labor Convention and other related regulations, the repatriation of foreign crew members on foreign ships is the responsibility of the ship owners, the countries where the ships are registered, and the countries of the crew members.
Even though Taiwan cannot exercise jurisdiction over the foreign vessels concerned, for the sake of protection of international human rights and in order to carry out the spirit of humanitarian assistance, in the midst of severe pandemic situation and limited anti-pandemic capabilities, the Taiwanese government helped the stranded Indonesian crew members to return to Indonesia.
The Taiwanese government has repeatedly negotiated with KADEI and foreign shipping agents in Taiwan.
Finally, taking into account the security of preventing pandemics at the border and adhering to humanitarian principles, the repatriation plan was applied.
The plan began by gathering crew members at Kaohsiung port via a non-entry transit anti-pandemic route to Kaohsiung International Airport.
Then, coordination was established with a number of institutions, namely the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan Centers for Disease Control, the Coast Guard Administration Ocean Affairs Council (OAC), the National Immigration Agency, Customs Administration, Ministry of Finance, the Civil Aviation Administration Office (MOTC), and Taiwan Port Corporation (TIPC).
More than 100 staff members of the Taiwanese state institutions managed to help 105 Indonesian crew members and 16 Indonesian citizens who were stranded in Taiwan to return to Indonesia on a special plane arranged by the Indonesian government on August 20 at 21.00 local time.
Tsung-Yen Chen, Deputy Commander of Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center, personally observed the repatriation process and worked closely with various government agencies to ensure anti-pandemic border security, as well as the right of Indonesian crew members to return to their country.
KADEI’s Head Budi Santoso also visited Kaohsiung International Airport to welcome the Indonesian crew members, and on behalf of the Indonesian government expressed his sincere gratitude to the Taiwanese government for carrying out this humanitarian act.
Taiwan, which upholds human rights and freedom, is deeply concerned about foreign crew members stranded for long periods of time at sea.
Taiwan and Indonesia cooperate in implementing this effort, and agree that the two parties should have dialogues on the employment of crew members and related issues to improve their rights.
In the future, relevant agencies in Taiwan will also maintain order and peace in the waters around Taiwan by controlling state ports, boarding, and eviction actions in accordance with the law, as well as guaranteeing the rights of foreign crew members working aboard foreign ships.
Those measures are taken to fulfill Taiwan’s responsibilities as a member of the international community.
Reporting by Indonesia Window