Fishermen center helping to fight human trafficking




A help center for fishermen established through public-private partnership will contribute to the fight against human trafficking by providing much needed services and education to over 25,000 foreign migrants workers and their families in the southern province of Songkhla, its founders said at an opening ceremony last week.

Coastal Songkhla province is a major economic hub and fishing industry center in southern Thailand. Most of the industry’s migrant workers are from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. Recognizing the unmet needs of these communities, six organizations came together in late May and founded the Songkhla Fishermen’s Life Enhancement Center to deliver care, support and opportunities to undocumented workers, trafficking victims and their families.

The founding partners are the Fish Marketing Organization, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, the Department of Labor Protection and Welfare, the Family Planning Association of Thailand, the Stella Maris Center Songkhla and Charoen Pokphand Foods.

“Songkhla Fishermen’s Life Enhancement Center was initiated to improve quality of life of fishery workers and their families as well as those seeking legal assistance. The Center will advise and educate them on issues related to labor protection, provide them humanitarian assistances and raise awareness on anti-human trafficking,” said Suchat Junthalukana, manager of the center and the Stella Maris Seafarers Center Songkhla.

The center has five official objectives: (1) Create a voluntary foreign workers network and bring about a favorable environment to serve and protect those who are vulnerable or victims of human trafficking. (2) Promote and put anti-human trafficking policies forward at local and provincial levels. (3) Encourage foreign workers and their families to receive occupational training and education.  (4) Provide basic medical services, basic illness screening and religious services for foreign fishery workers and their families.  (5) Coordinate with concerned agencies on complaints of unfair labor practices and worker-relation issues.

The center has received funding to remain operational through 2020 and its programs will be subject to annual monitoring and evaluation.

Suchat said the center will serve a total of 25,000 migrants in Songkhla and nearby provinces, including 3,563 people who are fishery crew and laborers, 20,000 people who are at risk to be lured into human trafficking, foreign children and youths, 1,200 women workers and 320 foreign families.

Should the project prove successful, the government and its partners intend to scale up the initiative to other coastal provinces with major ports. The Centre contains classrooms for foreign children, a prayer room, infirmary, multi-purpose hall including coordination office, meeting rooms and a library.