Programme welcomes release of hostages after 1,000 days in captivity

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Peter Swift, Chairman of the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme

The release, after 1,000 days in captivity, of the 22 crew members of the Iceberg 1, has been welcomed by the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) and its partners.

The crew were taken hostage by Somali pirates on 29th March, 2010 and two died during captivity on the vessel, owned by Dubai’s Azal Shipping. The remaining hostages – from Yemen, India, Ghana, Sudan and The Philippines, were released after a reported 13-day siege by the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) which started on 10th December.

“We are greatly relieved to hear that they are safe after their terrible ordeal,” said Peter Swift, Chairman of MPHRP.

“It has also been wonderful to hear the expressions of joy and happiness from their families as the news of their release reached them.

“Now, we hope that both public and private organisations will work to ensure that the released hostages, as well as their families, receive all the necessary support and assistance they will require both immediately and longer term as they recover from the trauma and deprivation that they have suffered since being kidnapped.”

MPHRP was established in September 2011 by a cross industry group of 27 partners with one aim – “to assist seafarers and their families with the humanitarian aspects of a traumatic incident caused by a piracy attack, armed robbery or being taken hostage.”

It has produced guides and training for the maritime industry and has representatives in India, The Philippines and Ukraine.

Mr Swift added: “While we are overjoyed at the release of these 22 seafarers, we must not forget that two of their colleagues died during captivity on Iceberg 1 and our thoughts are equally with the families of those who have not returned. Similarly our thoughts and prayers are with the more than 140 seafarers and fishermen still held hostage on other ships and ashore in Somalia and call on all parties to do all within their power to hasten their release and safe return.”

Chirag Bahri, MPHRP Regional Director for South Asia, who was also held hostage by pirates for eight months on the chemical tanker Marida Marguerite, said he had been able to speak to the families who were extremely happy and excited about the release.