Modern Slavery – Seafarers

We hear from three Filipino fishermen who experienced horrendous working conditions – a situation of modern slavery – on and off vessels operating out of the UK.

These six short films reveal the harsh realities faced by survivors of modern slavery at sea.

In this introduction, the seafarers discuss the push factors – low paid jobs in the Philippines, the seafarers borrow lots of money to pay for training and certificates, borrow from family, friends, manning agency – borrow from “everywhere”.

Contracts and Expectations

The seafarers discuss contracts and expectations. We learn that: the first contract is rarely the final contract; the wage promised can be almost halved – for example $1450 becomes $900; Filipino seafarers expect a better life and good working conditions in countries like the UK and are suprised when that’s not the case.

Before going to sea

The seafarers discuss treatment and anxieties before going to sea. We learn that: the seafarers arrived at the UK airport and were put on a coach for several hours; they didn’t go to sea for many weeks; were forced to live in a tiny caravan – 10 seafarers in a caravan made for two people; hardly ever enough food to go round and often went hungry; they didn’t work on the vessels named in their contracts.

Life at sea

The seafarers discuss the harsh realities of life at sea. We learn that: the seafarers work long, hard days – 21 hours work, 3 hours sleep; this results in very low energy levels; food rations never enough for number of men and time at sea; different food to that eaten in Philippines; witnessed seafarers being punched and kicked.

Reluctance to leave

The seafarers explain why they were so reluctant to leave despite the appalling treatment. We learn that: the seafarers were worried about breaking their contracts; fears that the manning agency wouldn’t give them another job; trapped in a situation of debt bondage – have borrowed money from many sources; worried about being ‘blacklisted’; worried about not being able to provide for their families.

Who helped?

The seafarers explain who helped them to get off the vessels to escape modern slavery. We learn that: once off the ship, the seafarers were treated well by the police and UK authorities; supported by the Catholic Church’s maritime welfare agency Apostleship of the Sea; AoS provided clothes, an allowance and helped the seafarers and their families; seafarers felt they could trust Apostleship of the Sea.