Slavery on The High Seas

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At the most recent Toronto Film Festival, audiences were treated to the premiere of “Ghost Fleet”, a startling documentary on slave labor widely deployed as part of Thailand’s commercial fishing industry. As told by the filmmakers from Vulcan Productions:

Thailand is one of the world’s largest seafood exporters with a huge fishing fleet that needs thousands of fishermen.  Decades of overfishing has decimated fish stocks in the region and today the Gulf of Thailand is one of the most barren parts of the ocean.

In order to continue meeting global demand with diminished catch in the territories closer to home, Thai fishing vessels are now forced to go further out into the ocean and stay out at sea for months, if not years. Many Thai workers no longer want to work on these boats, leaving the industry chronically short by thousands of fishermen each year.

Human traffickers have stepped in to fill this void with slave labor, selling vulnerable migrants from nearby Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos for a few hundred dollars each. Once forced onto vessels and sent out to sea, these men often go months, or even years, without setting foot on land. Former slaves report horrendous conditions, being drugged and forced to work up to 22-hour shifts with no days off, being kicked, whipped with toxic stingray tails and beaten. A recent report by the UNIAP found that 59% of trafficked migrants interviewed aboard Thai fishing vessels reported witnessing the murder of a fellow worker. As immigrants without proper documentation, many of these workers have no rights, no voice and no hope for change

I encourage you to watch Ghost Fleet and take action to eliminate forced labor by supporting The Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation. Click here for more information

Kudos to the team at Vulcan for bringing this important story to life.

Mark Rubinstein