The fate of Indian sailors, including the Keralites, who have been detained in Equatorial Guinea, remains uncertain amid fears that steps will be taken to transfer them to Nigeria.
As the first step in that direction, 15 sailors have been separated from the initial group and taken back to their vessel.
However, no official information has been shared so far, said Sheetal D’Silva, Milton D’Coth’s wife, one of the Keralites hailing from Methassery in Kochi.
In the last message from Milton sent on Wednesday, he mentioned that the 15 crew members detained in a small room at a government centre were taken back to their ship.
Antony Jobi said that Milton’s cousin says this move is now being analyzed as a step to transfer them to Nigeria.
Milton mentioned that he was moved back to the vessel in the message. He added that it is being discussed that they will be taken to Nigeria. If they disagree, the plan is to tow the vessel to the country’s territorial water. And to ensure this, two tug boats have also arrived. This message was received around 5 pm.
In another video shared by the ship’s chief officer, Sanu Jose, around 7:55 pm IST, he mentioned that a large posse of armed personnel was stationed on the jetty, and even though there was a detention order to prevent the ship from sailing, Nigeria plans to tug the vessel to their territory. This is a vital act of piracy. He added that the personnel were preparing themselves to board the ship. Once that happens, they will not be able to send messages, and the boat will start sailing. He requested to help them out.
Norway-based MT Heroic Idun was detained, and 26 members of its crews, including three from Kerala, were reportedly arrested by the navy of Equatorial Guinea on 12 August for allegedly breaching maritime boundaries.
It was further alleged that the Nigerian authorities’ step is illegal and breaches fundamental human rights.
According to a tweet by a maritime lawyer @SteveAskinsInc, the crew members were moved back to the vessel with orders to set sail for Nigeria despite applications in the Federal Court for a declaration stating that this is a sheer breach of human rights following the Nigerian Constitution.
Per Antony, the crew members have received no updates from the Indian Consulate based in Equatorial Guinea and nothing so far from the local authorities.
Sheetal D’Silva mentioned that the information regarding the measures adopted by the GOI is yet to come in. She said that she has been calling up the authorities associated with the Union and State governments. But until now, she has not received any information. In the meantime, mariners, family members of the detained Malayalee crew members, and well-wishers gathered at Marine Drive on Wednesday. They also held a candlelight vigil to support the arrested seamen.
References: Energy Voice, New Indian Express