MADURAI/NAGERCOIL:Fifteen fishermen from three southern districts, who were working in Bahrain and were arrested by Iran for allegedly entering its territorial waters, have been released after about five months of detention.
They have returned to Bahrain and are completing necessary formalities there. “We are now completing government formalities in Bahrain,” V Vargees, one of the fishermen, told Express over mobile phone.
“We could not sleep at night because the boats were full of mosquitoes. We were also forced to clean other boats stationed there,” he said, adding, “Our families also faced hardships because of our long detention.”
Vargees belongs to Kanyakumari district. Among those detained are fishermen from Tirunelveli and Ramanathapuram districts.
All of them were working for a ‘sponsor’ (employer) in Bahrain and when three of his boats allegedly entered Iranian waters, the fishermen were arrested on charges of poaching on October 22 last year. They were kept captive in their boats, said Sr Valarmathi, State coordinator, National Domestic Workers Movement, Migrants Forum India, a Chennai-based NGO.
The fishermen used to speak to Sr Valarmathi without the knowledge of the Iranian coast guard.
Though their sponsor had paid Iran the requisite fine, the captive fishermen were not released because of an Iran-Bahrain ‘dispute’. Bahrain had seized two vessels belonging to Iran, and Iran would not free the Indian ‘captives’ unless Bahrain released the Iranian boats, Sr Valarmathi told Express.
The fishermen initially suffered much due to lack of food and medical help, but the Indian embassy in Iran chipped in after continuous reminders about the ‘hostages’. With the help of the Ministry of External Affairs, they received release orders on April 2, Sr Valarmathi added.
“We had taken a loan of `75,000 for his travel, visa, etc. He used to send `5,000 to `10,000 every month after getting the Gulf job. But after the detention, the payments stopped,” said Kala, wife of Vargees.
During this period, she had no money for food and education of her two children, but neighbours helped, Kala said.