Fifty-eight Cambodian fishermen who were rescued from slavery on the small Indonesian island of Benjina last month are set to return home next week, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is arranging their repatriation.
The Indonesian government rescued the Cambodian fishermen, along with hundreds of others mostly from Burma, from the island following an investigation by The Associated Press revealing that the island served as a hub for forced labor.
“The 58 Cambodians have now been issued travel documents by their Embassy,” Joe Lowry, regional spokesman for the IOM, said in an email.
“IOM Indonesia will be assisting the men with all their travel arrangements in coordination with Indonesian authorities, including conducting the fit for travel health assessments and obtaining their exit permits. We anticipate the movement for the 58 men to happen next week,” he said.
Another 36 fishermen believed to be Cambodian remain stranded on Benjina as Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs works with the IOM to confirm their identities.
The 58 rescued Cambodian fishermen are being cared for by the IOM in Tual, a city north of Benjina.
Brett Dickson, a program manager at IOM Cambodia, said the roughly $35,000 needed for the group’s return travel would likely be secured from another organization in the coming days.
“Until they confirm, I can’t say who,” he said.
Men Saon, a 35-year-old who was among the rescued Cambodian fishermen, said by telephone from Tual on Tuesday that he expected to head home on Monday.
“Cambodian Embassy officials told us on the phone that they will bring us to Cambodia on May 11,” said Mr. Soan, who boarded a Thai-captained fishing boat in 2010 and has not returned home since.
“I want to go to Cambodia immediately if I can go, because I miss my parents so much,” he said.