Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to facilitate the release of 16 Indians who have been detained in the African country of Equatorial Guinea, reported The Indian Express.
In his letter, Vijayan said that a Norwegian vessel was detained by an Equatorial Guinea naval ship on August 12.
“Twenty-six seafarers, including 16 Indians, are being held hostage,” he said. “Three of them are from Kerala.”
The chief minister said that the crew of the ship was not involved in any unlawful activities and despite paying a fine, the vessel is detained.
He said that prolonged detention would affect the mental and physical health of the crew and that their stay in the port, which is considered unsafe, “would also put their lives in danger”, reported PTI.
“I request your good self to direct the diplomatic missions in the countries concerned to proactively intervene and facilitate the immediate release of the vessel and its crew members,” Vijayan told the prime minister.
The detained Kerala sailors have been sending videos and photos that have been widely shared on social media.
One video shows the detained Indians confined to a small room and one of them identified as Vijith Nair requests everyone to share the clip so that it reaches Indian authorities.
Earlier on Tuesday, another sailor from Kerala, Sanu Jose, told a news channel that the crew was arrested unlawfully and that there are no official records about it, reported PTI.
“Everything was being done at gunpoint and by intimidating us,” Jose said, while clarifying that the crew members have not been physically abused.
He added: “I want to return home. I want to see my kids. I have two small kids.”
The Indian Embassy in Equatorial Guinea had said on Monday that it is in regular contact with the crew members over phone.
“This Embassy and our High Commission in Abuja are closely working with authorities of Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria for the early release of crew members of MV Heroic Idun,” it said in a tweet. “All crew members are safe and those in the Detention Centre have been shifted to the ship.’