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"Athena B"

Volume 979: debated on Tuesday 19 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the arrest of five Indian seamen rescued from the Greek freighter "Athena B"; why they were imprisoned; why no opportunity was given to them to negotiate for their wages, lost property and journey home with their employers; and what happened to the other seamen who were rescued.

The "Athena B" struck a sandbar trying to enter Shoreham harbour on the afternoon of 21 January, and Shoreham lifeboat took off 15 passengers and crew members, including five Indian seamen. The captain then manoeuvred the ship into deeper water and expected to take the ship into Shoreham the following day. Preliminary examinations were made by the immigration service. Three Indian crew members were refused entry. They were not regular seamen and the immigration officer was not satisfied that they would leave the country. The other crew members who had been taken off the vessel, including two Indians, were treated as being on shore leave and therefore free to enter pending their return to the vessel. Late on 21 January the ship ran aground on Brighton beach and the remainder of the crew were taken off. In these circumstances the crew other than the three refused entry were given leave to enter. Because the ship's officers could not supervise the three refused entry, these men were detained in Shoreham police station for a period and subsequently in detention accommodation at Heathrow. While in detention they were visited by the ship's captain and others. I understand that there was no one in this country able to carry out detailed negotiations with them on wages and other matters. The three men refused entry flew to Athens, en route for India, on 26 January, under arrangements made by the Greek owners of the ship. It is understood that the men remained in Greece for negotiations with the owners.I have received representations about the handling of this incident, which are being looked into.