Kerala

Coast Guard brings home fishermen who fled Yemen

Indian fishermen aboard Coast Guard vessel.

Indian fishermen aboard Coast Guard vessel.   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

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The Indian Coast Guard escorted a Yemeni vessel with nine Indian fishermen who fled following alleged inhuman treatment from their sponsor, to the Customs jetty at Fort Kochi around 1.15 pm on Friday.

The vessel had seven Tamil Nadu fishermen and two Keralites on board. Coast Guard ship Aryaman shepherded the vessel till the fairway buoy from where it was escorted by two Coast Guard interceptor boats to the jetty.

Aryaman had located the Yemeni vessel around 65 nautical miles off the Kochi coast. A six-member boarding team boarded and searched it around 1 am on Friday. The boarding was tough owing to rough seas, said Coast Guard officials.

Though petrified, the fishermen were more than cooperative and in need of help, they said. The fishermen had their passports with multiple entries stamped on them. They were also found to be in possession of mobile phones while the navigational aide supported by UAE-based satellite operator was in switched off mode.

According to the Coast Guard, some of them had not contacted their families in over a year. They had planned their escape and stocked food and fuel in the vessel before setting off on November 19.

They reportedly had stocked around 6,000 litres of fuel when they started, which had depleted to just about 500 litres by the time they docked at Kochi. The fishermen are being interrogated by various agencies. Customs officials scoured the vessel for any contraband on board.

The South Asian Fishermen Fraternity had made an appeal to the Union government and the State governments of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the Indian Coast Guard for assistance to locate and save the fishermen, who were forced to undertake a dangerous expedition across the seas on a vessel stolen from their Yemeni sponsor following inhuman living and working conditions.

“They were employed in December 2018, but their sponsor neither apportioned a share of revenue earned from their catch or provided them anything essential for a decent living. They informed their families about their plight before drawing up a plan to flee and were able to execute it,” said John Churchill Bas, general secretary of SAFF.

They remained incommunicado since November 19 when they set sail, but some of them contacted their families a couple of days ago when they were close to the shores of Lakshadweep.

Following this, the Coast Guard launched a mission to locate them and eventually tracked down the vessel in the early hours of Friday.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 7:27:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/coast-guard-brings-home-fishermen-who-fled-yemen/article30115052.ece

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