New Zealand ponders fate of fishing crews who abandoned trawlers after abuse allegations –

New Zealand ponders fate of fishing crews who abandoned trawlers after abuse allegations Published:  12 August, 2011

NEW Zealand is this weekend embroiled in a debate over the fate of two Asian fishing crews who walked off their trawlers complaining they had been abused and mistreated.

Around 30 Indonesian crew members left the Korean-registered fishing ship ‘Oyang 75’ last month alleging beatings, sexual harassment and inadequate pay and are now in Christchurch waiting to see what is going to happen to them. In a separate incident the crew of the trawler Shin Ji walked off their ship in Auckland and are also waiting for a decision on their future.The  issue now is whether the men should be deported or allowed to remain in the country for longerAccording to New Zealand media, Fisheries researcher  Dr Christina Stringer of Auckland University Business School, who has been investigating the allegations, since another trawler ‘Oyang 70’  sank last year with the loss of six lives. She said she found conditions ‘shocking’  and evidence of abuse, both physical and sexual, adding:”On one vessel the whole crew was lined up and hit with shovels. It’s widespread amongst the Indonesians, the Filipinos and even the Chinese crews.”The owners of the ‘Oyang 75’ deny the allegations and say that they have paid the fishermen their rightful wages and will co-operate with country’s Labour Department investigation and a forthcoming ministerial inquiry into the whole issue of the treatment of foreign fishing crews.But the country’s Green Party said it would be unjust to send the men home now. Spokesman Keith Locke said: “New Zealand has a responsibility to make sure the Oyang 75 crew get the payments they are legally entitled to. There is no guarantee the Korean owners will oblige once the crew members are back in Indonesia.” There is also criticism that such vessels, which have been described as slave ships, are being allowed to operate in New Zealand waters or use New Zealand ports. However, Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson says the men will not be deported anytime soon. She said she had been advised no final decisions have been made and no deportation order has been ordered for the crew.