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12 Indian Sailors Stranded on Arrested Ship in Turkey: A Fight for Wages and Freedom

12 Indian Sailors Stranded on Arrested Ship in Turkey: A Fight for Wages and Freedom

12 Indian Sailors Stranded on Arrested Ship in Turkey: A Fight for Wages and Freedom

Twelve Indian sailors, including two from Tamil Nadu, are facing a desperate situation aboard the MV Fatma Eylul, a ship currently arrested at the Ambarli Port in Istanbul, Turkey. For the past three and a half months, they’ve been stuck on the vessel without any money and with dwindling hope.

Deception and Despair

The plight of these sailors began with a cruel twist. They were recruited by Indian agents who hold licenses issued by the government’s Recruitment and Placement Services (RPSL). These agents, however, allegedly withheld crucial information. Captain Cleetus Jesudasson, the 49-year-old leader of the crew from Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu, says they were not told that the MV Fatma Eylul was under arrest and essentially abandoned at the dock.

This deception had severe consequences. The ship had been seized by Turkish authorities in September 2023 after the previous crew faced similar issues: unpaid wages and lack of basic supplies. Now, the current crew finds themselves in the same predicament. Feeling trapped and helpless, Captain Jesudasson expressed their collective desperation: “Free us or kill us. We feel helpless, with our families in desperate financial crisis. We have been asked not to leave the ship,” he said. The prolonged confinement is taking a toll on their mental well-being, with Captain Jesudasson stating he feels “insane” after being stuck on board for so long.

A Cry for Help

In a desperate plea for help, the crew sent an SOS appeal to the Director General of Shipping, the Indian government, and their state government. They yearn to be reunited with their families and finally receive their rightful wages.

Seeking Accountability

The sailors point the finger at the recruiting agents, NAMS Ship Management and RAS Ship Management, accusing them of deliberately concealing the ship’s status. They believe these agents put their lives at risk and demand legal action to be taken.

Grim Conditions and Uncertain Future

Another crew member, Kannan Rajendran from Thirumazhisai near Chennai, painted a bleak picture of their living situation. He described the ship as being “in very bad condition” and mentioned their limited food supplies. Adding to their woes, the ship’s insurance coverage, crucial for emergencies, is set to expire in mid-June 2024.

A Glimmers of Hope, But Questions Remain

There have been some developments that offer a sliver of hope. The Indian government, upon learning of the situation, has taken some initial steps. They have issued warnings to the recruiting agents, and even cancelled the license of one of them. Deputy Director General of Shipping, Captain Manish Kumar, confirmed government intervention. He stated that officials are working with the Ministry of External Affairs to facilitate the sailors’ return and have contacted the Indian embassy in Turkey.

Further complicating the situation, reports suggest a recent change in ownership for the MV Fatma Eylul. An unnamed RPSL agent reportedly contacted Captain Jesudasson, requesting a letter to the Director General of Shipping with a promise from the new owner to settle the crew’s dues by the end of the month. However, attempts to reach NAMS Ship Management for comment were unsuccessful.

Beyond Immediate Rescue: Need for Systemic Change

While the government’s efforts to bring the sailors home are a positive step, concerns remain about the bigger picture. Manoj Joy, representing the Sailors Society, an organization that advocates for seafarers’ rights, believes simply revoking the RPS license is insufficient. He argues for stricter regulations with harsher penalties, including jail time, for recruitment agencies that exploit sailors. He cites the Philippines as an example, where deliberate recruitment malpractices can lead to significant jail sentences and hefty fines.

The ordeal of the 12 Indian sailors on the MV Fatma Eylul exposes the vulnerabilities faced by seafarers. Their story highlights the need for robust government oversight and stricter regulations within the recruitment industry to prevent such exploitation and ensure the safety and well-being of those who work on the high seas.

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