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Old 03-10-2014, 11:54   #1
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Skipper's Duty Towards Refugees

Recently (another forum) a skipper spotted a refugee boat near the Greek coast. His estimate was that the boat was approximately 10 meters and crowded with upwards of 50 refugees. The conditions were gale force and the sea was constantly breaking over the bow drenching all the persons huddled on the deck.

He decided not to call the greek coast guard on his VHF, feeling that if he did so, the other boat might pick up his call and attack him, taking over his boat.
His estimate of the situation was that the boat would probably make it to the coast.

He sailed away.

My call on this is he has a duty to report the boat (condiitons were such that some could easily have fallen overboard). Failing to call, he should have, at least, followed at some distance and be prepared to pick up any that did fall overboard.

Comments on this? When is our duty towards potentially saving lives, become outweighed by our fears?

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Old 03-10-2014, 12:10   #2
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Re: Skipper's Duty Towards Refugees

Reporting a vessel in distress, or aiding others in distress, seems to me to be not just a courtesy.
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:25   #3
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Re: Skipper's Duty Towards Refugees

I think the issue here is "turning them in" sounds like they didn't want the CG.
Tough call, apparently they had the ability to take over his boat and he thought that a possibility. So I'm guessing they were faster at least.

See I'm trying to look at it as the refugees might have (now this is pure supposition so correct me if I'm wrong) sounds like they were trying to escape something and the authorities may export them or similar, that maybe they didn't want that kind of help?

If this is all true, I can see where I would have done the same thing.
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:26   #4
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Re: Skipper's Duty Towards Refugees

If this were true, my struggle would be should I take as many on board as I can and become a smuggler myself?
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:32   #5
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Re: Skipper's Duty Towards Refugees

What I would say is that if he honestly believed that by helping them he would be putting his own crew and boat at risk, then I can't blame him for his choice. Yes, you should help others when you can, but there is certainly no moral obligation to put yourself at great risk in order to do so.

Did he honestly believe there was a risk? Did he accurately assess that risk? I don't know. I wasn't there, so I won't try to second-guess him.
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:44   #6
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Re: Skipper's Duty Towards Refugees

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Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
If this were true, my struggle would be should I take as many on board as I can and become a smuggler myself?
If the refugees are not in danger, SHOULD the captain bring them on board if he/she has no way to defend themselves against the refugees?

If one is off of FLA and finds a raft full of refugees who are not in danger:
  1. Calling the USCG will get them picked up but then deported.
  2. Giving them some food and water but not reporting them to the USCG is likely illegal and leaves them at risk but gives them a chance to make it to shore.
  3. Pulling the people off the raft, NOT reporting and docking is certainly going to lead to legal troubles.
  4. Pulling the people off the raft and calling the USCG is back to 1.
Tough calls to make if life is not in immediate risk.

Later,
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:55   #7
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Re: Skipper's Duty Towards Refugees

Yeah a lot depends on what they are running from, I believe I know the area and while I do not watch the news anymore, they may well have been running from something very bad?

My thought is, are you helping them by calling the CG? I assume by the comment of if he called the CG they might attack him and take his boat sort of means that he was not afraid of being attacked if he didn't call? Plus only way for them to know if he called was for them to have their own radio, one that if they wanted help, they could call for it.

I see this as maybe being similar to it being 1860 and you find a runaway family of slaves in your barn, do you turn them in and help them, they are cold and hungry?
Do you help them and thereby become a criminal yourself? or do you go back into the house and not say anything?

That may be a little strong, but the word refugee was used here with the strong implication of that they didn't want any assistance from the authorities.

Am I reading it wrong?
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:57   #8
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Re: Skipper's Duty Towards Refugees

dannc,
If that happens to me, I'll chose option 2, only difference between them and me is an accident of birth
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Old 03-10-2014, 12:59   #9
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Re: Skipper's Duty Towards Refugees

1. Call up relevant Coast Guard / SAR / authorities.
2. Stand by until they arrive.

You cannot just sail on and "assume".

These people are crammed and cannot swim when they fall into the water. Many of them cannot swim at all. Their boats sometimes sink or get turned over by bigger waves.

You cannot just sail on and "assume". This would be inhuman.

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Old 03-10-2014, 13:05   #10
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Re: Skipper's Duty Towards Refugees

Second guessing from extremely limited information but my first thought, a 30' boat with 50 on board in a gale with breaking seas isn't going to outrun or catch anything larger that a dinghy. If the poster was in any kind of sailboat or cruising boat then the original report of fear of attack is nonsense.

Again wild guess based on not much, a seriously overloaded 30' boat in conditions as described is at serious risk of sinking. Calling for help would be the right thing to do; also standing by in case the boat did sink before help arrived.
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Old 03-10-2014, 13:13   #11
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Re: Skipper's Duty Towards Refugees

Quote:
Originally Posted by carstenb View Post
Recently (another forum) a skipper spotted a refugee boat near the Greek coast. His estimate was that the boat was approximately 10 meters and crowded with upwards of 50 refugees. The conditions were gale force and the sea was constantly breaking over the bow drenching all the persons huddled on the deck.

He decided not to call the greek coast guard on his VHF, feeling that if he did so, the other boat might pick up his call and attack him, taking over his boat.
His estimate of the situation was that the boat would probably make it to the coast.

He sailed away.

My call on this is he has a duty to report the boat (condiitons were such that some could easily have fallen overboard). Failing to call, he should have, at least, followed at some distance and be prepared to pick up any that did fall overboard.

Comments on this? When is our duty towards potentially saving lives, become outweighed by our fears?

carsten

First of all - there is overwhelming tendency to call all the "boat people" refugees. I think it is not proper. Good part of them are real refugees (this word has a defined meaning for the international law as well as for domestic laws), at least in Med. However most of them are illegal immigrants not being the refugees.

Back to the topic:
  1. If really it was possible for the boat to chase and take over the yacht I do assume the boat was not in present and imminent danger (something strange however about this size of boat, number of people and possibility to give the chase...)
  2. It is not a duty of the skipper to put his own boat and crew into present and imminent danger to provide an assistance to a vessel in distress.
  3. The Coast Guard should be alerted in my opinion. Close to the Greek shore it was probably possible to do it by cellphone (using 112 number). Out of reach of cellphone signal the VHF call from some distance would be an option.
Such a decisions are never easy... But this story... It does not add up... So difficult to tell anything sensible...
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Old 03-10-2014, 13:15   #12
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Re: Skipper's Duty Towards Refugees

sa a sola female, i think that i would make sure they arent direly in need of saving, then get enough space between to be feeling safe yet able to see, and call for help on vhf... pan pan..at such coordinates, and stand by until i saw something was gonna improve.
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Old 03-10-2014, 13:16   #13
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Re: Skipper's Duty Towards Refugees

If there is no threat to life, make your decision and follow through with it. If you are morally/ethically/humanitarian/religiously conflicted, you could follow the vessel to shore and see they made it. You may decide to delay a call to CG unless you see problems happening.

you may know if they are sent back to their country, a death will occur. You may not.

First you tell no one about your decision.
Then, you tell no one at all about your decision.

I dont want to know what you will do or did.
You will not know what I did.
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Old 03-10-2014, 13:19   #14
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Re: Skipper's Duty Towards Refugees

Quote:
Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
1. Call up relevant Coast Guard / SAR / authorities.
2. Stand by until they arrive.

You cannot just sail on and "assume".

These people are crammed and cannot swim when they fall into the water. Many of them cannot swim at all. Their boats sometimes sink or get turned over by bigger waves.

You cannot just sail on and "assume". This would be inhuman.

b.
It COULD be inhuman. You make the assumption that the group is not offshore and about to land in FLA which is the scenario I laid out for a specific reason.

If the group is hundreds/thousands of miles offshore, to do nothing would be inhuman but it has been done. I think the buy that washed up in the Pacific was passed by a ship whose crew saw him but they ship did not stop to pick him up.

The reason I put Florida into the scenario is that this situation DOES happen fairly frequently though not as frequently as it used too. If the refugees are from Cuba, and if they make landfall, they get to stay in the US. If they are picked up at sea they are returned to Cuba. So if the Cuban refugees are just offshore, and in good shape, they almost certainly will not want to get on your boat and they sure dont want to be picked up the USCG! They have almost made it. If the refugees are NOT from Cuba then they, in theory, are deported irregardless of making landfall or not.

Later,
Dan
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Old 03-10-2014, 13:29   #15
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pirate Re: Skipper's Duty Towards Refugees

In the Med the only thing 99% are trying to flee is grinding poverty and the chance of stepping onto streets paved with gold in Europe.. they are economic refugees and Italy and Spain are being swamped by them.. hundreds drown in the attempt.. either by accident or design.
They pay just about all they have for the chance often to be dumped overboard at sea... the deaths can only be guesstimated..
As to them attacking you.. likely the only folk capable of that would be the skipper and his one crew.. if he has even that.
Most have never been near the sea before in their lives..
I'd have hove to 500metres or more off and radio'd in their position and situation then stood by till the CG turned up.. just in case they went down.
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