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ITF calls for immediate release of Wakashio crew held for a year without charge

The ITF has called on the Mauritius government to immediately release and repatriate the crew of the Wakashio, having been held for over a year since the grounding and oil spill.

“This week marks the one-year anniversary of the grounding of the MV Wakashio and the environmental catastrophe associated with it. This week also marks one year since the Mauritian authorities have held members of the crew and prevented them from leaving the Republic, most have been effectively detained without charge,” said David Heindel, ITF Seafarers’ Section chair.

Captain Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar and Chief Officer Tilakaratna Subodha were arrested by Mauritian authorities following the grounding on 18 August 2020 they were charged with endangering safe navigation. The two ship’s officers have been held in prison ever since and denied bail.

The remainder of the crew have detained under “house arrest” in a hotel.

“The ITF supports thorough, independent investigations of the factors relating to any maritime incident, including those that may have affected the grounding of the MV Wakashio. In this instance, we are concerned about the lack of appropriate legal proceedings taking place regarding the Wakashio crew,” Heindel said.

Heindel and ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton have appealed to the President of the Republic of Mauritius, Prithvirajsing Roopun by letter to bring the case to a swift conclusion.

The letter said: “At present, the majority of the Wakashio in the care of your courts have not been charged with any offence, yet they are still not free to leave Mauritius. As a consequence, some of these seafarers have not seen their families for more than two years. This is because, prior to the maritime accident in July last year, some of the crew had already been on board the vessel in excess of 12 months – beyond the legal limit set by the Maritime Labour Convention (2006, as amended).

“Two years is too long to be away from loved ones. The crew’s ongoing detention adds to the stress of their families many of whom are battling the present pandemic and its economic effects, without the support and presence of their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons. The families want them to come home.

We ask that you do all that is within your power and influence to bring this saga to an expeditious conclusion, for the sake of the seafarers – and for the Republic’s reputation of as an upholder of human rights.”