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But For The Shortcut...

How I Saved Two Indonesian Slaves

By Lucinda CookPublished about a year ago 3 min read
But For The Shortcut...
Photo by Namrata Shah on Unsplash

I was doing my weekly shop, with the pram. Town was bustling with tourists, and I was in power-through mode, and took the shortcut through Centra supermarket. I did a double-take, registering that Centra had created a new sit-down coffee shop, and then I did a triple-take, because I spotted two young men sitting in it that just had to be Indonesian. "Apakah kamu dari Indonesia?" I asked them, and one replied "Can you help me please?" I made my way over, and sat with them. They were indeed Indonesian, from Central Java. My second mother tongue is Indonesian, having picked it up as a young child, and these two Javanese lads preferred Javanese, but we could chat just fine in Bahasa Omong. Yudi did most of the talking, while Surono looked to be in shock, for he said barely a word, and unlike Yudi, did not seem to register the extreme unlikeliness of an Indonesian-speaking local finding them in their hour of need.

"We were slaves on a Spanish fishing boat," explained Yudi. The boat stopped here yesterday, and me and Surono ran away. That boat, no pay, no food, work all the time, no sleep. Last night, we slept on the street, in a doorway. Hotels all full."

I was indignant about the Spanish Captain and the conditions they were kept in, and shocked and ashamed of my town, population 1200, --people left to sleep in a doorway just does not happen. But it did.

"Can you help me find work?" Yudi asked. "I will try." I promised. They had fishing passports, given to non-Europeans, and Yudi had his Indonesian passport, but the Spanish Captain had Surono's. I made a note of their numbers and names. "Now, you can come and stay at my little house," I said, "we will walk, about two kilometers." I told them I live alone, no husband no children, in a small house. They were happy, and so was I, for Yudi pushed my pram full of shopping the whole way home.

The year was 2017. Since 2013, there had been a crisis of Syrian and other refugees making their way to Europe, and every day you heard stories of another boatload of people drowning. I wished to help, somehow, and imagined I could share my house with a refugee, even though it only has a bedroom and a kitchen-living room. I even asked the Universe to send a refugee my way. I imagined a woman, maybe with a child. So I was somewhat mentally prepared when I offered my house to Yudi and Surono. Though I had bunk beds in my bedroom, the lads preferred to sleep on the floor in the living room.

When they saw the Indonesian lads, most of my neighbours were shocked and alarmed that I would do such a thing, and one even threatened to report me! I quickly realised that my impulsive reaction in Centra that day was going to have unforeseen consequences, and it opened my eyes to racist and malevolent forces. I was convinced though, that this event was my purpose in life. I had become suddenly disabled 15 years previously, and lost my careers, my social life, and colleagues. I was feeling very useless and good for nothing or no-one, so helping the lads was good fortune for me as well.

The story ends well. I asked a friend from a fishing family for jobs for the lads, and they were happily taken on by a local trawler before three days had passed. The conditions were still tough, but the pay was good, and the food was all-you-can-eat, whenever you want it.

During the holidays, the lads came and stayed with me. I did some research and made some phone calls, and wrote some letters. The plight of Indonesian fishermen working in Ireland was already known about, and being discussed in some circles. I worked with another Indonesian fisherman with fluent English, who was a rep for the Transport and General Workers' Union. The outcome was that a year later, when that Spanish trawler came back, all the enslaved Indonesian fishermen walked off, and reported the captain to the local Guards. They prosecuted him, and fined him, and the Indonesians were given the choice to get free flights home or find work with Irish trawlers. Many had been captive for ten years, and most chose to go home.


About the Creator

Lucinda Cook

Schooled on four continents, an omniartist and scientist, I present here a serialised open-access guide and Key to gaining a tangible understanding of the bizarre multidimensional realms of quantum physics through my method of crochet.

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