Anglican mission calls for recognition of seafarers’ role in migrant rescue

Posted May 20, 2015

[The Mission to Seafarers press release] The International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA), the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA) and the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) have issued a joint press release calling on EU governments to recognize the key role of seafarers in the rescue of migrants at sea.

They have sent a letter to all heads of governments urgently requesting that more resources are mobilized for search and rescue in the Mediterranean.

The Mission to Seafarers, as one of 28 members of ICMA, fully supports this statement.

The Rev. Canon Ken Peters, Mission to Seafarers’ director of justice and public affairs, said: “All of the focus of public scrutiny and debate is of course about the plight of the poor, exploited migrants – men, women and children who are paying a terrible price for their attempts to get to freedom and safety. They are the tragic victims of war, religious persecution and heart-breaking brutality. This leads them to make such pitiful, desperate deals with criminal gangs who are running people trafficking rackets along the coasts of war torn states, particularly from Libya and more recently from Burma.

“Yet in the background of these crises there are hundreds of merchant seafarers whose moral and legal duty is to intervene in human tragedies at sea and attempt rescues, in the absence of coastguard and naval intervention. Seafarers put lives first. However, this too comes at great risk to their personal safety and indeed to their mental wellbeing.

“The Mission to Seafarers is working with seafarers who have been so traumatized by major incidents of shipping disasters involving great loss of human lives, that they need our help and support with post-traumatic stress counseling. The perilous predicament of seafarers should be emphasized because without them many more lives will be lost.  The world expects so much of seafarers in these rescue operations but don’t give them a thought in terms of the danger that this places them in.

“I make a plea to all governments who are trying to tackle this ever increasing problem humanely, to properly consider the safety and role of merchant seafarers, especially when they are discussing important international policy on migrant safety, human trafficking and slavery at sea.”