The agent of M V Ophelia, the ship accused of throwing 12 stowaways off board into the sea, has apologized for the incident and has agreed to shoulder the responsibility of repatriating them to their countries The Managing Director of the ICT Africa-Liberia, Austin Taylor, said the owner of the ship regret the incident and will work through him (the agent) in resolving the matter.
Mr. Taylor made the disclosure in a joint press conference with the Commissioner General of the Liberia Immigration Service in Monrovia Wednesday, September 21, 2022. According to him, the crew thought that the stowaways were pirates when they discovered them on board the ship as they prevented them from seizing the vessel and taking them (the crew) hostage.
“ I wish to express regret on behalf of the ship owners to you gentlemen from Nigeria and Cameroun, they actually feel your pains. It is unfortunate that things happened in this manner, they took those measures thinking that they were under attack by pirates .” Mr. Taylor explained that he has been instructed to work with relevant authorities and their embassies to make sure that the men are repatriated to their respective countries.
The shipping agent cautioned the 12 men to treasure their lives rather than engaging in illegal and dangerous journeys in the name of running from hardship.
“Success cannot only be achieved in Europe as they can also make living successfully by working towards a better life but there also are a lot of people who left Africa for European countries and they are still suffering and unable to pay their way back home.”
Also speaking was Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) Commissioner General, Robert Budy, he said the government will not leave any stone unturned in repatriating the crew of the M V Ophelia to face justice for their crimes. According to him, the altitude of the ship’s crew against the stowaways constitutes a violation of human rights according to Liberian and international laws.
“From all indications, the two others, who have not been found until now, are either missing or fear dead in the high sea.”
The LIS Commissioner-General explained that he has formally forwarded the case to the Liberia Maritime Authority and the Ministry of Justice to ensure that justice is served in this case
For his part, the Cameroonian Ambassador and the Doyen of the diplomatic corps in Liberia, Augustine Gang, in an angry tone said, the acts of the crews on ships sailing the international waters around the African Continent think they can commit such devilish crimes and go without impunity. According to him, there are international laws governing the stowaways on ships and they are known by all captains of ships sailing any international water.
He appealed to the Liberian government to take serious punitive action against the crews of the MV Ophelia in Liberia in order to serve as a deterrent to others. The Cameroonian Ambassador thanked the Liberian government especially the people in Grand Kru County for their efforts in rescuing the stowaways.
Turning on the stowaways, he said: “death is greater than suffering, and cautioned them against venturing into danger simply in the name of reducing their sufferings”.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Ambassador, Godfrey Odudigbo has expressed disappointment in the incident in which two Nigerian stowaways were killed on board the MV Ophelia.
“We want to assure you that we will work with the Liberia Maritime Authority and the Liberia Immigration Authority to make sure that the perpetrators of this crime do not go without impunity.”
He advised the stowaways that it is better to struggle and survive in Africa than try this dangerous journey and lost their lives as was done by the two victims.
“Lot of people trying to travel to Europe through the Sahara Desert died either from starvation or got drawn in crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya or Morocco.”
The press conference was graced by the leaderships of the Nigerian and the Cameroonian communities in Liberia and some top brass of the Liberia Immigration Service.
Reported by: Augustine Octavius