Ship's captain cleared of role in stowaway drama

22nd December 2005, Comments 0 comments

22 December 2005, BRUSSELS — Neither the captain nor the crew of a container ship on which 10 Nigerian illegal immigrants were found hiding on Wednesday were aware the stowaways were onboard, the Dendermonde public prosecution office said on Thursday. An inspection of the rudder room where the 10 stowaways were hiding has revealed that there was in fact a hatch between the rudder room and the rest of the ship. However, the hatch had been closed with heavy bolts.

22 December 2005

BRUSSELS — Neither the captain nor the crew of a container ship on which 10 Nigerian illegal immigrants were found hiding on Wednesday were aware the stowaways were onboard, the Dendermonde public prosecution office said on Thursday.
  
An inspection of the rudder room where the 10 stowaways were hiding has revealed that there was in fact a hatch between the rudder room and the rest of the ship. However, the hatch had been closed with heavy bolts.

The public prosecution office also said there were no signs found on the paint that the hatch had been recently opened, newspaper 'De Standaard' reported.
 
The statement came after the 10 illegal immigrants — who were found at about 5pm on Wednesday at the Kallo lock near the port of Antwerp — claimed the ship's captain were aware they were onboard.

All 10 stowaways were suffering from hypothermia when found on Wednesday and were placed under medical attention. While en route to Antwerp, they'd had little food and resorted to drinking salt water in order to survive.

They have since been taken to the asylum seeker shelter in Vottem, located near the city of Liège. The immigration service will decided at a later date the best way to repatriate them

The cost of repatriating the 10 Nigerians will be imposed on the Italian-based shipping company. The stowaways cannot travel back on the ship as it is not returning to Lagos, Nigeria.

The public prosecution office said the investigation is not yet completed. Inquiries are still being conducted into how the stowaways got onboard the ship and whether there is a link to organised human smugglers.

It also remains unclear whether the Nigerians were to be picked up in Antwerp. The stowaways have remained vague on this issue.

The prosecution office is also investigating claims from the 10 refugees that two companions fell overboard while en route from Africa. However, the statements differ too much to establish time and location.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news

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