New Delhi: A total of 3,936 Indian fishermen and 468 fishing boats were apprehended by other countries during the last five years.
The Ministry of External Affairs in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on Friday said that the Indian fishermen were generally apprehended by countries on charges of allegedly fishing in their territorial waters. The cases were filed related to illegal fishing, trespassing, crossing the international maritime boundary line illegally, etc., under the respective Acts of the particular countries.
“The government attaches highest priority to the safety, security and welfare of Indian fishermen. As soon as cases of apprehension of Indian fishermen and their fishing boats are reported, immediate steps are taken by the Indian Missions and Posts to seek consular access, ensure their welfare and also pursue their early release and repatriation along with their boats,” said the reply.
The Ministry said that consular officers of Missions/Posts make regular visits to local jails and detention centers to ascertain the condition of Indian fishermen lodged there and provide requisite help and support, including legal assistance in deserving cases.
Missions/ Posts abroad also approach the law enforcement agencies to complete the investigation and judicial proceedings at the earliest possible. The focus of the government’s efforts was on securing the early release of fishermen, it added.
The Ministry informed that steps were taken regularly by the Indian Coast Guard to guide the Indian fishermen not to cross the perceived International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) through various community interaction programmes for the fishing community. The Indian Coast Guard ships and aircraft maintain close surveillance along the perceived IMBL and shepherd the Indian fishing boats towards the Indian waters to prevent their apprehension by the Maritime Security Agencies of neighbouring countries, it said.
“Given the humanitarian and livelihood dimensions of this issue, the government remains continuously engaged for the early release and repatriation of Indian fishermen along with the fishing boats and has put in place bilateral mechanisms to ensure cooperation and understanding between India and the countries concerned, to promote the safety and security of the Indian fishermen,” the reply said.