Indonesian authorities have released 16 Vietnamese citizens who had been detained for illegal fishing, according to Vietnam News Agency.
The fishermen were flown home from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport and are the last to be released in time to celebrate Lunar New Year at home.
Most of the fishermen had been in detention for 10-18 months, and had acted as witnesses at their captains’ illegal fishing trials.
Cao The Huy, who had been in detention since June 2016, said he will stay at home with his family and has no plans of returning to work at sea. Doan Van Hien, who had spent his entire life working at sea before his arrest in October 2016, also wants to find a new job on dry land.
“We have been working hard with Indonesian authorities as well as relevant authorities in Vietnam to bring the fishermen home before the Lunar New Year,” said Nguyen Thanh Giang, an embassy official.
“We will continue to monitor upcoming trials and work to bring more fishermen home.”
The Vietnamese embassy in Indonesia has arranged for a total of 150 fishermen to be released and returned home by air since the beginning of 2018. However, another 150 Vietnamese fishermen are still being detained in Indonesia. Most of them are either serving jail sentences for illegal fishing or waiting to give evidence at upcoming illegal fishing trials.
Hundreds of Vietnamese fishermen have been arrested for illegal fishing in recent years in the waters of nearby countries, including Brunei, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Indonesia released 690 Vietnamese fishermen detained for illegal fishing in its waters last June, followed by another 239 in October.