Eighteen \ship jumpers\ being sent home says Chief Immigration Officer
Eighteen Indonesians labeled as “ship jumpers”, who have been housed at the Tafuna Correctional Facility for over two weeks, are being sent back to Indonesia, says Chief Immigration Officer Tamasa Dennis Fuimaono.
Tamasa told Samoa News that two weeks ago a longliner, whose local shipping agent is Blue Angel, came into port and when they finished unloading and the vessel was about to leave, 18 fishermen refused to leave.
“First, they were saying they were being mistreated by the Captain; second they said they were not offered any medical aid when injured; and thirdly they weren’t getting paid,” said the Chief Immigration Officer.
He explained that initially the “ship jumpers” informed the Customs Agents that they refused to get on the vessel and wanted to be housed in a hotel. However, Tamasa explained that under Immigration laws, any fisherman who jumps ship must be housed in jail to await their departure, given that their status in the territory is considered illegal.
Tamasa noted that he also conducted research with local agents, and spoke to several, who claim that these fishermen are literally labeled as “notoriously lazy fishermen”.
He said that on Tuesday, all 18 Indonesians were supposed to leave, but only eight made the flight to Samoa to connect to Fiji and Korea with the final destination, Indonesia. The remaining ten were bumped off.
Tamasa said the remaining fishermen were taken back to jail, where they await their flight this Friday, when another connecting flight is scheduled, which will eventually land them home in Indonesia.
According to the CIO, it is the agent for the vessel, Blue Angel, which is to pay for all the accommodations, including meals at the TCF, along with penalty fees incurred when the fishermen refused to board the vessel.
He said it's $90 per fisherman in penalty fees, and with 18 men, the total amount owed to the Immigration Office is over $9,000, which does not include the bill for room and board owed to the Department of Public Safety.
Samoa News spoke to a Blue Angel official, who declined to comment on the allegations of mistreatment of the fishermen by the Captain.
Herman Popeye Thomsen told Samoa News that Blue Angel clears the vessel and tends to the needs of the fishermen, and is not involved beyond that. He noted that another shipping agency has been tasked with paying the fees incurred with the government as a result of the ship jumpers.
Tamasa commended Department of Public Safety Commissioner William Haleck for making sure that Immigration laws are followed, and for allowing the fisherman to stay at TCF. He also thanked Attorney General Afoa L Su’esu’e Lutu, Treasurer Falema'o Pili and Toe Loia, Polynesian Airlines manager for assisting Immigration in these issues.