Anti-piracy group sets target for family fund

DUBAI // A piracy survivor family fund to provide social, medical and psychological assistance to freed hostages and the families of seafarers being held captive by Somali pirates was announced on Tuesday at the end of a two-day meeting of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) in Dubai.

“An important decision was taken to establish a piracy survivor family fund because many who are captured suffer mentally and physically and return traumatised after their long period of absence from home,” said Maciej Popowski, the chairman of the CGPCS.

“We thought the international community should make an effort to offer them assistance, so the fund has been established under the auspices of the contact group. Many delegates made pledges so there will be seed money. We want to have someone in charge to whom these seafarers and their families can turn for assistance and then we can map out what they need. We don’t have a full picture yet but we wanted to start somewhere.”

The target figure for the fund is US$250,000 (Dh918,300) and the amounts pledged by countries have not been disclosed.

To be managed by a British non-government organisation, the fund aims to support families by helping them retain their homes and keep children in school since many seafarers are not paid wages by employers after the vessel is held.

There are 37 seafarers being held by Somali pirates.

Of about 5,000 who were held hostage by Somali pirates, between 800 and 1,000 suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other social and medical problems, according to figures obtained by the CGPCS.

Officials from 60 countries and 20 international organisations were in Dubai for the meeting.

A law enforcement network was also established, comprising police officers, Interpol and Europol officers and prosecutors.

Delegates focussed on the need to apprehend the kingpins and strengthen Somali law enforcement and judiciary.

“The piracy business model is fractured but not broken so if we were to withdraw the pirates would come back,” Mr Popowski said.

“We need to engage with the countries of the region and help them build their own capacity of controlling their territorial waters. They need to modernise their legislation and go with our support after the piracy networks, particularly the kingpins. We must make sure that we not only identify them but apprehend and prosecute them.”

The need to tackle piracy and terrorism is among the challenges the UAE will highlight as it hosts a two-day international counter-piracy conference starting today.

“Taking the war against piracy to land will be even more challenging and complex than driving pirates out of our waters,” said Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister.

Understanding the link between sea and land based instabilities was vital, he said, since other crimes were on the rise.

Sheikh Abdullah called on the international community to continue patrolling operations at sea and tackle the root causes on land by building local law-enforcement capacities and economic opportunities.

“It also requires taking the fight to land-based organisations such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab that are both drivers of instability, and partners and sponsors of maritime crime,” he said.


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