ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp is a free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Imagine that a member of your family is working away at sea. Now imagine finding out that they have been arrested with the rest of the crew. They are in prison in a different country and you have no way of communicating with them. This was the ordeal faced by the families of the crew of a cargo vessel, who reached out to SeafarerHelp for assistance.
On 3rd December 2015, the ship was arrested off the cost of Sicily for alleged drug smuggling. The 11 crew, made up of Ukrainians and Georgians, were arrested and imprisoned in Palermo, Sicily.
The wife of one of the seafarers contacted SeafarerHelp in January 2016. She and the other seafarers’ families had lost contact with their loved ones and were desperate for justice.
The SeafarerHelp team put the families in contact with a welfare service in the Ukraine for support. The team also got in touch with the lawyers working on the case in Sicily. The families were having difficulties sending money to the seafarers so that they could keep in contact with them whilst in prison. The families were also unable to communicate with the lawyers because they had no common language, so SeafarerHelp assisted here as well. The seafarer’s wife was very concerned about her husband’s health as he had pre-existing medical issues and had developed a suspected ulcer. The SeafarerHelp team contacted Stella Maris in Palermo who visited the seafarer in prison and agreed to support him and obtain the medicine he needed.
The SeafarerHelp team spent a lot of time liaising with the families and Stella Maris to keep them updated on the situation with the seafarers. After several court hearings, all but one of the seafarers, including the seafarer supported by SeafarerHelp, were released from prison. SeafarerHelp received a letter from the seafarer’s wife who thanked the team for their assistance and confirmed that the seafarers had at last been repatriated.
SeafarerHelp is not just a helpline for seafarers. If you are a family member of a seafarer and need assistance or support, contact us. All our contact details can be found at seafarerhelp.org. Make a note of our details or save them on your phone in case you ever need us.