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Intl. trade unions urge UN Secretary-General to call on govts. to ease COVID-19 restrictions on seafarers amid growing reports of abuse

Author: International Chamber of Shipping, International Trade Union Confederation & International Transport Workers Federation, Published on: 25 May 2020

Letter to United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, 21 May 2020

[T]he...COVID-19 pandemic has caused…tens of thousands of…seafarers [to work]…for extended tours on ships, [being]…prevented by governments from returning via local ports, through transit their home countries. Equally, relief crews are not being permitted to transit through nations. Crew changes ensure that seafarers are returned home [safely] to their families and…[to] continue the safe movement of goods. [O]ver 200,000 seafarers on board vessels worldwide…have completed their contractual tour of duty, but have been prevented from returning home. Many…will be experiencing adverse effects on their mental health and reduced ability to safely perform their roles...

[Whilst] some governments...are…allowing the changes to take place such as by designating seafarers essential workers…, many…are preventing seafarers from returning home and being relieved. The State duty to protect [the] human rights…[of] rights-holders…[applies] both under normal circumstances and in times of crisis. This is in line with the three pillars of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights -"Protect, Respect and Remedy".

[We] ask that the UN cooperate with all stakeholders to: urgently bring this issue to the attention of "Heads of Government"…; establish a global high-level task force…to develop a sustainable strategy to implement the Recommended Framework of Protocols for Ensuring Safe Ship Crew Changes and Travel During the Coronavirus Pandemic; develop means of coordination amongst a number of stakeholders…, to ease travel restrictions and protect seafarers during this crisis; urge member states to treat seafarers with the respect and dignity…

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