Slavery at sea
Charis Gibson highlights the ill treatment of seafarers
PANIC GNAWED AT RAJESH’S STOMACH. Its pangs had become almost indistinguishable from the hunger pains and nausea, brought on by too many days drinking rainwater filtered through a well-used cloth.
Just a few months ago, he’d boarded his ship a proud young captain, buoyed by the prospect of a regular salary to send to his wife and nine-month-old son in Mumbai, as he and his crew transported crude oil from the UAE to Iraq. But the salary had never materialised, and now the ship was their prison. Like many Indians looking for
work at sea, Rajesh had paid a hefty bribe to an agent to secure his job. The loans he had taken to do this were now in arrears, their costs spiralling out of control. He and another 40 crew were stranded onboard a small flotilla of ageing ships, anchored five miles off the UAE coast. The shipping company refused to secure the necessary permissions to enable them to enter the port, or to listen to Rajesh’s pleas to send them home. Their diesel and fresh food and water had run out, leaving them with a diet of dried lentils and whatever fish they could catch.
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