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Myanmar Announces Rescue of More Migrants From Indonesian Slavery

Map of Myanmar
Map of Myanmar

Myanmar says more of its citizens have been rescued after allegedly being enslaved on the remote Indonesian fishing island of Benjina.

Lwin Oo, an official with the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta, told VOA Monday that 174 Myanmar nationals were found in recent days. He added that 455 are being sent to a nearby island for processing.

“We’re examining them at the moment, and once the delegation arrives, we will discuss further. Myanmar delegation has been invited to arrange for their return. The delegation is on its way right now, and upon their arrival [Tuesday], they will work out the return process," he said.

He added that the Myanmar delegation, including an anti-human trafficking official, will verify the migrants’ nationality and their claims of being enslaved, and then help seek compensation for years of unpaid labor.

Benjina Island was the focus of a special investigation by The Associated Press, which reported last week that hundreds of men, many of them from Myanmar, were trapped on the island.

Following the report, Indonesian authorities announced that they had found 550 enslaved fishermen on the island. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is working with the Indonesian government and foreign embassies to support legal cases against the fishing companies at the center of the charges.

An IOM official told VOA that Indonesian authorities are planning to investigate the fishing industry across the entire country.

AP’s investigative report included video of eight men locked in a cage, and a slave graveyard. The men, mostly from Myanmar, talked of how they were beaten and shocked with Taser-like devices at sea, forced to work almost nonstop without clean water or proper food, paid little or nothing, and prevented from going home.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.