Mobile App Aids Detection of Human Trafficking at Sea

Jakarta, 30 April 2019 (IOM)*A new mobile app developed by IOM Indonesia provides frontline law enforcement with a powerful tool to quickly detect victims of human trafficking in the fisheries sector.


In March 2015, the Government of Indonesia rescued hundreds of crew from conditions of modern slavery aboard foreign fishing vessels. IOM helped to identify the victims of trafficking, provided shelter, health and catering services and ultimately organized the safe return home of all of the men including these Myanmar nationals. Photo: Ed Wray/IOM Indonesia

The simple app provides a list of 21 questions in multiple languages, allowing investigators to gather information directly from non-Indonesian crew rather than having to rely on the word of a vessel’s captain who may have reason to mislead them about the crew’s status and wellbeing.

Human trafficking and labour exploitation are widespread in the global fisheries. The issue is of concern within the context of migration because so many victims are foreigners who have been trafficked across international borders.

Between 2011 and 2018, nearly 2,000 fisheries workers were rescued from traffickers operating in Indonesian waters, according to IOM data. Virtually all of them were migrants, mainly from Cambodia and Myanmar.

The development of the app follows five years of close collaboration between IOM and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (KKP) to tackle trafficking in persons on fishing boats operating in Indonesian, according to IOM Indonesia’s Chief of Mission ad interim, Dejan Micevski.

“IOM has supported the KKP and the Task Force for Eradicating Illegal Fishing (Task Force 115) since its formation in 2015.  With the documented nexus between illegal fishing and forced labour, Task Force 115 has been remarkably successful in combating the growing problem of trafficking in persons, human smuggling and forced labour in the fisheries sector,” he said.

The collaboration saw high profile rescues between November 2014 and October 2015 of 1,342 enslaved crew members, in Benjina, Ambon (Maluku) and Pontianak (West Kalimantan). Most had been at sea for years working without pay under brutal conditions aboard foreign vessels reflagged to operate in Indonesia.

IOM helped to identify the victims and provided temporary shelter, health services and daily subsistence support until they were able to return home.

The app’s survey is designed to indicate within three minutes whether a fisheries worker may be a trafficking victim by asking about an individual’s age, contractual status, living and working conditions on the vessel, and any restrictions on his or her movement or ability to communicate with others.

If the initial identification process suggests that trafficking may have occurred, individuals are put through a more comprehensive on-shore screening developed by KKP and IOM.

Rescued victims of trafficking will be assisted after the KKP determines their basic needs, including legal, medical and return and reintegration support.

The mobile app was developed with funding from the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP).


2019 Human Wrongs Watch

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