THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Months after being in an Iranian jail for no fault of theirs, four Indian seafarers including Keralite Deepak Ravi were finally released on Thursday. However, just hours after, they found themselves back in prison, as there was no one to whom they could be officially handed over and repatriated to India.
The sailors, including Deepak, 27, from Thrissur, were on board M T Manaman 8 when they were arrested and sent to prison after the Iranian Coast Guard detained the oil tanker for allegedly transporting unauthorised oil in March this year. The other three hail from Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh.
Neither the ship owner nor the captain of the vessel came to their rescue. The crew had been languishing in prison. Initially for some days, there was no information about him, said Deepak’s mother Sherly. There was no proper response from the shipping agent too.
“After March 17, we had no idea about his whereabouts. I got in touch with the shipping agent too. In fact, it was a big relief when I came to know from another crew member’s father that he was in prison. We were a worried lot till then, as we were totally clueless about where he was. One of the Indian Embassy officials had been in touch with them in prison and providing them all necessary assistance,” Sherly told TNIE.
As per available information, the seafarers were released from prison on July 29. However, within a few hours, they were taken back to the prison as there was no official, either the ship owner, his representative or shipping agent present to receive them and make the necessary arrangements for their repatriation to India.
The UK-based Sailors’ Society which has been providing support to Deepak’s family has now taken up the matter with the Union Ministry of External Affairs.
“The family informed us that it was through a Noida-based manning agent who took an exorbitant amount as service charges that Deepak got a job aboard M T Manaman 8. Being ordinary seamen, the Indian crew were not aware about the ownership of the cargo or the details of the end receiver,” pointed out Manoj Joy V, community development manager, Sailors’ Society. He requested for urgent MEA intervention and all assistance for repatriation of the seafarers.