A group of 32 Thai fishing crew who were abandoned while working in Somalia are to receive almost Baht 10 million (US$255,000) in compensation, after winning a legal case against their employer.
Last month, Thailand's Central Labour Court ruled that the compensation would cover the men's unpaid wages and holiday pay.
The fishermen, who are all back home in Thailand, were supported by global maritime network Stella Maris and other agencies through their ordeal, and throughout the legal process.
In June 2019, while working in Somalia, the desperate crew sent a social media message pleading for help. They were all crew members of the Wadani 1 fishing vessel.
Despite having been employed to work first in Iran and then in Somalia, some for up to a year, they were never paid their full wages. Food supplies were also running dangerously low on the vessel, and they needed more fishing equipment.
Stella Maris Thailand seafarers' centre director and port chaplain Apinya Tajit saw the message and contacted the men.
'They were wary at first, but I was able to gain their trust. They were in a terrible situation and had been left stranded,' Ms. Tajit said.
She contacted Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Thai Embassy that looks after Somalia and requested their assistance in helping to repatriate the crew, and for their flight costs to be covered.
The Embassy negotiated with authorities in Somalia and the vessel's owners to send the men back home. All of them returned to Thailand by the end of August 2019.
Ms.Tajit and her colleague, Ms. Nattaya Phetcharat, manager of Stella Maris Songkla Port then helped the men to initiate legal proceedings for human trafficking and to recover the crew's unpaid wages.
Despite hitting several hurdles along the way, they persevered and travelled around Thailand to interview and record evidence from the men.
'We're grateful to The Freedom Fund who provided funds to cover the legal expenses and to Sr Law who acted as lawyers for the fishermen. We were also assisted by the Human Rights and Development Foundation and the Environmental Justice Foundation,' said Ms. Tajit.
'We're delighted that the men have won their case. Stella Maris is still in contact with them and continues to provide pastoral and emotional support to them and their families,' she said.
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