Two Indonesian fishermen who say they were enslaved on an American fishing boat have settled their lawsuit against the vessel’s owner seven years after escaping and receiving special U.S. visas as victims of human trafficking, their lawyers told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The attorneys said Sorihin, who uses just one name, and Abdul Fatah settled their lawsuit against Thoai Van Nguyen, the California-based owner and captain of the Sea Queen II.
The settlement outlines steps Nguyen must take to continue to fish but does not disclose a financial award. The captain denies all allegations of abuse or human trafficking and has always followed federal laws when employing foreign crews, Nguyen’s attorney said.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. court in San Francisco claimed the men were trafficked through the Hawaii longline fishing fleet and forced to work on the boat around Hawaii and off the shores of California.
Citing federal and international human trafficking laws, the suit sought an unspecified amount of money for fees they paid and compensation they were promised along with damages for mental anguish and pain.
The lawsuit was being prepared as a 2016 Associated Press investigation revealed the Hawaii fleet operates under a loophole in federal law that allows owners to use foreign laborers with no work visas or the ability to legally enter the United States. The lawsuit was in the works when the AP reported on the men’s ordeal.
“The trafficking claims do not rely on the contract provisions,” said Agnieska Fryszman, one of Fatah and Sorihin’s attorneys. “The trafficking statute provides basic protections that apply regardless.”
Details of the settlement say Nguyen must disseminate fliers to his foreign crew members, written in their native languages, which outline their rights and ways to contact authorities if they are being exploited.
“This settlement should be a wakeup call to the commercial fishing industry,” Fryszman said. “There’s simply no excuse for turning a blind eye to human trafficking, and we look forward to continuing our efforts to hold others in the industry accountable.”
The flier also includes indicators of abusive employment situations, debt bondage and human trafficking.
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