For the second Christmas in a row two seafarers – Asmael Alsarwt and Seyed Nasr Soltan – are again stranded, abandoned by their ship's owner thousands of miles from home.
Since being abandoned on their vessel, the PSD2,in Mozambique’s Beira port in 2017, the men have received the support of Sailors' Society's Crisis Response Network (CRN).
Earlier this year, Sailors Society’s Crisis Response Network took on its 100th crisis case since its launch in 2015 – with piracy, non-payment of wages, death at sea and abandonment accounting for most of the cases supported.
“The fur PSD2crew were in a very bad way when we met them,” explains Boet van Schalkwyk, who heads up the CRN in Africa, “and none of them had been paid any wages since they joined the ship.”
Asmael, the ship's captain, comes from Syria and is married with two children – a five-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son.
Sailors' Society's chaplains are providing him with emotional support through his ordeal, and helping with the practical means he needs to try to get home.
“His passport has now expired and we are providing practical support by liaising with the Syrian Embassy in Pretoria to help him get a new one so he can get home to see his family,” says van Schalkwyk
The Sailors' Society is working with other charities in the area to pay for food supplies and medical needs.
“One of the crew burnt his arm and told us that it wasn't healing, so we went to the pharmacy to get him some ointment. After that it healed very well.”
“Seafarers face some of the toughest conditions of any workforce, dangerous conditions, cramped living quarters, isolation. Add to that being abandoned and not knowing when you'll see your loved ones again – the mental health implications are huge.
"Asmael and Seyed have remained on board the ship, knowing that if they go home they may not be paid for their work.
"Some – like their colleague Mohammed Jahangir Alam – have had no choice but to leave the vessel."
Mohammed, a Bangladeshi chief engineer, was repatriated by the charity after his wife died from cancer. Unfortunately, he didn't make it home in time for her funeral.
"Abandonment issues are complex and can take months – if not years – to settle,” says van Schalkwyk
“Once a ship is abandoned, it can be sold – but these things take time and that can have a huge effect on the seafarers who are left to wait for their outstanding wages."
Despite their ordeal, the men remain resilient.
“During one visit, the crew asked if we could get them fishing rods so they could become partly self-sufficient.
“Since we provided them with the equipment they've managed to catch quite a few big fish.”
Van Schalkwyk says that he is hopeful the men will soon be able to finally return home.