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Raj calls for investigation of alleged human rights violations

March 30, 2021 4:45 pm
Commission Director, Ashwin Raj. [File Photo]

The Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission is waiting for a response from a shipping company in relation to allegations of serious human rights breaches.

Commission Director, Ashwin Raj says this involves the shipping company’s employees, the seven Filipino seafarers who are currently stuck in Fiji with no pay and provision of food and medical care.

Raj says these seafarers have also raised serious concerns with the Commission about the safety of the vessels they were on board as crew members.

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The crew are alleging the vessel has old equipment, the fire extinguishers have expired on some ships and sometimes the ships are overloaded.

Raj highlighted the crew raised these safety breaches with the shipping company which were ignored.

He adds this is a critical issue for the Commission as it concerns the safety of not just the crew members but the Fijians travelling on these ships.

Raj stresses this needs to be thoroughly investigated by the relevant authorities.

He says the Commission has written to the shipping company in question and is waiting for a written response on the allegations.

Currently, the International Transport Workers’ Federation and some local well-wishers are providing financial and legal support to these seafarers.

Raj confirms the Commission is working with the Anti-Trafficking Unit of the Fiji Police Force, Department of Immigration and Ministry of Employment on this matter.

Other allegations by the seafarers include non-provision of food, no medical attention while on the ship, living in unhygienic condition in ships infested with cockroaches, blocked toilets, insufficient time for rest and recuperation and nonpayment of salaries with reduction of pay without notice and consultation.

He says the crew alleges that in the first week of April 2020, the employer reduced the employees’ salary by half without consultation with the employees.

He says these seafarers were also allegedly made to run around to obtain sick-sheets as the employer preferred only one medical centre for its employees to visit for medical care and sick sheets.

The seafarers also alleged that their employer had also removed all their personal documents and passports including seaman book from each employee and kept them under lock and key in their office and upon request to return the documents, the employer had allegedly refused to return these crucial documents.

Raj says these seven seafarers who are still in Fiji have conveyed to the Commission that they wish to return to the Philippines but do not have the financial means to go back home.

The Commission had also intervened last year after one of the crew members had fallen ill while on the boat and a staff member at the Commission had taken him to the hospital and provided financial support to cover for his medical bills.

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