15 Kenyan fishermen are reportedly stuck in a vessel owned by a Somali company.
According to reports by Nation, the group which was recruited by an unlicensed firm in Mombasa, is being forced to work at gunpoint without pay.
Some of them are said to be badly injured and have not been allowed to seek medical attention.
East Africa International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) officer Betty Makena told the local media that the group is now desperately calling for help to grant them safe return into the country.
The ITF officer revealed that the fishermen are forced to work for long hours and those who resist are threatened with a gun.
She revealed that for months now the fishermen have been working under deplorable conditions, and often spent sleepless nights in the open.
“The fishermen got my contact from some of their colleagues who they interact with and sent me the details and the pictures on their sufferings. Majority of them are sick and they need urgent medical attention,” said Ms Makena.
13 of the fishermen were reportedly hired by Seaport Operations Limited on April 16, 2019, and taken to Somalia where they met their two colleagues who had been hired earlier.
Ms Makena disclosed that despite Somlink Fisheries Investment, the company that owns the vessel, promising to pay the fishermen Ksh26,000 a month, the men have not received any payment since they left Mombasa in April.
“The payment is below average as according to International Maritime Organisation (IMO) labour convention which calls for an average of Sh90,000 per month,” she said.
Ms Makena said that a seafarer lobby had contacted the Kenyan government to rescue the fishermen.
“We understand the ship will be heading to the Djibouti fish landing site and we hope to make contacts to ensure the crew is rescued there,” she said.
She, however, noted that efforts to reach the recruiting agency had proved futile.
“We have contacted Seaport Operations Limited who recruited the fishermen before handing them over to the Somali fishing vessel owner and they have refused to meet us and our investigation reveal they do not have physical office,” Ms Makena disclosed.
The reports come amid a heated marine time row between Kenya and Somalia.
The two countries have in the recent time been locked in a diplomatic tussle, following a conflict of oil blocks Indian Ocean, that Kenya claimed ownership after it was revealed that Somalia was auctioning the blocks.