Although ISWAN’s main office is based in South London, we operate beyond the UK to help seafarers around the world. We have representatives working in the Philippines, India and Nigeria under our Regional Programme.
When seven Bangladeshi seafarers were forcefully removed from their vessel and abandoned without pay, our Regional Representative in Nigeria was there to assist and support them.
Despite being on six-month contracts, the seafarers had been working on the Nigerian tanker for over a year. Conditions on board were poor, but when the crew members raised the welfare issues with the ship owner, the owner threatened to report them to the Navy and the crew became very frightened.
According to the captain, the seafarers were tortured, forcefully removed from the vessel and taken without an official handover to a hotel, where they were forced to sign documents under duress and subsequently abandoned.
Two of the seafarers were critically ill and had no access to medical treatment, and all were owed a year’s salary. The seafarers were left at the hotel depressed, traumatised and frustrated, and they felt helpless in their situation.
The seafarers’ case was referred to ISWAN’s Regional Representative in Nigeria, Afusat Eke. Afusat made weekly visits to the seafarers to check on their wellbeing and provided them with emotional support and counselling. While the seafarers were waiting to be paid their salaries and repatriated, the captain’s mother died. This devastating news left the captain frequently in tears and feeling suicidal, but Afusat comforted and reassured him to help him remain calm in this stressful situation.
Afusat also forwarded the case to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), who forced the seafarer’s employer to take action. The seafarers were repatriated to Bangladesh having been paid part of their salary, with the assurance that the balance would be paid in instalments.
Upon returning to Bangladesh, one of the seafarers contacted Afusat to show his appreciation for her efforts: ‘Thanks you Madam for your help and thanks to all those who assisted in [our repatriation] back to Bangladesh’.