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For Christmas, let's not forget the 200 hostages in Somalia

(BRUSSELS2) The Eunavfor Atalanta mission has just sent a message of alert and support for the 200 sailors and boaters who remain hostages to pirates in Somalia. A message which takes on its full meaning on Christmas Eve but which is unusual both in its form, in the issues raised, and the very political tone used. The message ends, somewhat, as a call to everyone (and in particular to political leaders) to become aware and act in the face of the hostages, without delay.

“Apart from a few individual cases, the fate of the merchant crews, who represent the majority of these hostages, does not often attract attention and is not given enough consideration. There are currently 199 men and one woman held in Somalia after their ships were hacked “And all of them are being held against their will by criminal gangs who intend to use them for ransom. " A " humanitarian tragedy "which is important to remember" especially at Christmas, a time when families normally get together “, we underline the anti-piracy HQ of Northwood.

More than 2000 sailors taken hostage in 4 years

Since the start of the European anti-piracy operation in December 2008, 2317 merchant navy sailors have been taken hostage; detention lasting on average almost 5 months. The record for length of captivity is held by the 24 members of the crew of the MV Iceberg 1, who are still detained, for 19 months.

The myth of the nice pirate does not exist

EU anti-piracy specialists want to destroy a myth: that of the friendly pirate. Today it seems a long way from the time when hostages were relatively well treated. “ At least 60 merchant sailors died as a result of their captivity at the hands of pirates and many others suffered cases of torture and physical abuse. 49 hostages are currently being held without a vessel ", either because their ship had sunk or because it had been abandoned. “ Their future is less clear and their value is (often) considered lower than that of a ship ».

New Hacker Trading Tactic

The criminal gangs » adopted a specific new tactic from Eunavfor: they “accept the payment of a ransom for the ship and its crew but then hold part of the crew hostage which they intend to exchange in exchange for the release of the Somali pirates convicted in the crew members' country of origin ". Currently 4 South Koreans and 7 Indians from MV Gemini and MV Asphalt Venture are thus held hostage after the release of their ships.

Another tactic. Some ships – there are currently 3 of them – are abandoned on the beach, which can create a potential source of pollution, while their crews, totaling 54 men, are still in captivity. The Shiuh Fu No.1, pirated at Christmas 2010, was abandoned on the beach. while the fate of the crew of 13 Chinese, 12 Vietnamese and one Taiwanese remains unknown ».

A call to settle the hostage issue

« Piracy in the Indian Ocean affects us all » concludes the operation HQ which is thus undertaking an awareness-raising operation. “ It adds a meaningful price for every barrel of oil and every container that passes through the region. (…) In the longer term, the root causes of the piracy crisis must be addressed within Somalia. But at present, it is the situation of 200 hostages (which) remains uncertain. » A real appeal to the political authorities to resolve this situation.

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(photo credit: Eunavfor Atalanta)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).