Oyang fishermen face deportation

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 10:22 12/08/2011

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Cabinet Minister Kate Wilkinson refused to waive a $550 fee to allow the crew of an Indonesian fishing crew, who say they were abused and intimidated, to appeal their deportation.

Labour MP Darien Fenton wrote to Wilkinson asking for the reprieve and for the Labour Department to continue to fund their accommodation while they were in New Zealand.

Both Labour and the Green Party believed the 32 seafarers should stay to give evidence to a ministerial inquiry into foreign fishing crews operating in New Zealand waters.

The men say they suffered beatings, overwork, sexual harassment and inadequate pay, clothing and food on the Oyang 75.

Fenton said the crew still had not been paid and could be owed more than $26,000. She said police should also investigate allegations of human trafficking.

''Some of them do want to go home, but leave some behind to deal with their wage issues. We need to stand up for these guys.''

In a letter of reply last week, Wilkinson - who is labour minister and associate immigration minister - said the crew's accommodation was paid between July 14 and August 2 while they gave statements to relevant agencies.

She was not prepared to waive the fee and did ''not consider it appropriate'' to continue to pay for their accommodation.

A spokesman for Wilkinson said the men had received a letter from the Immigration Service warning that deportation ''will become an issue'' for them from Saturday.

But they would not be removed on Saturday.

The men had already given evidence to a separate inquiry into the Oyang 75 and are not required to present to the ministerial investigation, the spokesman said.

The information they provided will be passed to the inquiry into foreign charter fishing boats which was announced last month.

Green MP Keith Locke called for the deportation process to be halted. Forcing them to go home would be ''unjust.''

''New Zealand has a responsibility to make sure the Oyang 75 crew get the payments they are legally entitled to. The crew are also prime witnesses for the Minister's inquiry. We need their detailed evidence if the Minister's report is to be a thorough one.''

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