DOHA: Given the sensitive security situation in the Arabian Gulf waters, Qatari fishing boats inadvertently crossing into Iran’s maritime borders face the threat of seizure by Iranian Coastguard and detention for long periods causing fear among fishermen operating in the waters.
Some 29 Indian fishermen based in Qatar strayed into Iranian waters on October 10 and have since been detained by the Iranian coastguard in their boats, whose number is not known, in the fishing harbour near Iran’s Ikkish island.
On the same day, another 30 Indian fishermen from Dubai were arrested by Iran for crossing into its waters and they are also being holed up in their boats near the same island.
Representatives of Indian fishermen in Qatar have called on the authorities here to issue special identity cards to fishermen so that they could be released immediately in case they venture into the territorial waters of another country, especially Iran, while fishing in the sensitive area.
The representatives are affiliated to India-based South Asian Fishermen Fraternity (SAFF), which, in a press statement issued yesterday, urged all the GCC countries to issue special identity cards to fishermen.
The SAFF has said in the statement that migrant fishermen do not have knowledge about the sea in the Gulf and so, when they inadvertently breach maritime borders while fishing, they shouldn’t be treated as criminals.
Thousands of Indians are working as fishermen in the Gulf, mainly in Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE, who work for local sponsors and some of them occasionally stray into waters of other countries and are, therefore, arrested.
Most of the 29 Indian fishermen currently detained by Iran are from Kanyakumari district of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu and two are from neighbouring Kerala.
SAFF’s representatives met Indian Embassy officials in Doha to raise the issue and the embassy said it was in touch with the Indian mission in Iran and the latter was pursuing the matter with the Iranian authorities.
Sources told this newspaper yesterday that even the Qatari sponsors of the arrested fishermen are following up the matter and trying to get them released by Iran as the boats seized belong to them and their business is affected. “It’s more than 25 days and the fishermen are still detained in their boats by Iran.”