EU NAVFOR: 200 held hostage by Somali pirates

With Christmas only days away, the EU’s European Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) has highlighted the fact that there are currently 200 people being held hostage in Somalia following the pirating of their ships in the Indian Ocean. Since the start of the EU NAVFOR counter-piracy mission in December 2008, a total of 2317 merchant seamen have been held hostage for an average of nearly five months. The longest period in captivity is 19 months for the 24 crew members of the M/V ICEBERG 1, who are still being held.

It is estimated that at least 60 merchant seamen have died as a result of their captivity in the hands of the pirates and many more have suffered torture and abuse. 49 of the 200 hostages are held without the collateral of a ship, following the ship sinking or being abandoned which means that their future is less clear as their value is seen as less than that of a ship. Additionally, a recent tactic of the criminal gangs has been to agree to the ransom payment for the return of ship and crew and then hold-back some of the crew when the ship is released to use to negotiate for the release of convicted Somali pirates from the home country of the detained crew members. Currently four South Korean and seven Indian crew members from the M/V GEMINI and the ASPHALT VENTURE are held following the release of the ships.

Today, there are three ships abandoned and derelict on the beach, creating a source of potential pollution, whilst their crews, totalling 54 men, remain in captivity.