A fishing boat crew of 105 Indonesians were flown back to their country late Friday after being stranded at sea for months because they were not allowed to enter Taiwan due to its COVID-19 border restrictions, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
The crewmen on the foreign-registered fishing vessel departed Kaohsiung International Airport late Friday on a special flight arranged by the Indonesian government, MOFA said in a statement.
The 105 Indonesians are sailors whose work contracts ended five months ago, but they could not enter Taiwan to catch a flight home because of the government’s COVID-19 border regulations, which temporarily prohibit foreign-owned fishing vessels from docking in the country.
As a result, the Indonesians were stuck on board the vessel since March and were physically and mentally exhausted after a year at sea, MOFA said.
Citing the Maritime Labour Convention, the ministry said the repatriation of crew members on a ship is the responsibility of the boat owner, the flag state, and the sailors’ country.
The situation had prompted the Indonesian Economic and Trade Office to Taipei (IETO) to appeal to Taiwanese authorities to help resolve the situation, as soon as possible, on humanitarian grounds, MOFA said.
IETO understood, however, that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan was only allowing ships registered in Taiwan and owned by Taiwanese to dock, MOFA said.
Nevertheless, based on humanitarian concerns, the Taiwan government decided to deal with the matter to assist Indonesia in getting the sailors home on a case-by-case basis, the ministry said.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel