Stranded cruise workers in Brazil finally going home; 300,000 others await repatriation

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It's been a long six months since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic, especially for the maritime crew members who have been stranded on cruise ships since mid-March. Now, repatriation for over 100 Mauritian seafarers is reportedly being finalized between MSC Cruises, Emirates Airlines and government authorities – though over 300,000 others are still waiting to go home.

About 101 cruise workers have been stuck on three MSC ships anchored near Santos, Brazil, since mid-March, when cruise companies suspended international movement due to the COVID-19 crisis, The Guardian reports. One unnamed worker alleged escalating tensions because stranded crew has not been paid in over six months.

The MSC Musica, pictured. 
(iStock)

FAMILY ON MSC CRUISES EXCURSION DEFIES CORONAVIRUS SAFETY PROTOCOL, GETS BOOTED FROM SHIP

Livid with the "lengthy repatriation arrangements" that kept them stuck at sea for half the year, per the New York Post, crew members on the MSC Poesia recently staged a protest on the ship’s deck, wielding banners that read “Enough is enough” and “Send us home, our lives matter.” Other crew members on the MSC Musica and MSC Seaview are said to still be at sea, near São Paulo.

According to steward Ashchaye Mohitram, MSC informed the crew on Thursday that their repatriation plans are "currently being finalized with Emirates Airlines and the local Mauritian authorities," per ABC News. If everything falls into place, the 28-year-old will finally go home on Sept. 16.

The MSC Poesia, pictured. 
(iStock)

Mohitram described being abandoned at sea as "the worst experience of my life," criticizing the lack of transparency and meager fare.

The steward said that the seafarers were sometimes served “only bread and butter” to fill their stomachs, and were other times offered “only pork and beef.”

“I'm just praying to get back on land soon with my family, eating homemade meals,” Mohitram explained.

Though a spokesperson for MSC was not immediately available to offer further comment, a representative for the cruise line revealed that 96% of crew members have been repatriated to date.

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“Over 75% of our crew, who needed to return home, were safely repatriated by the end of May. And as of today we have now repatriated over 96%,” a spokesperson for the cruise line told the Guardian on Monday.

“We continue to work hard at every level, directly and through our manning agent on the ground engaging the Mauritian government at the highest level on behalf of our crew. We hope to repatriate all the remaining Mauritian crew needing to return home from our vessels in the Brazil area by the middle of this month.”

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Meanwhile, thousands of other seafarers around the globe are still said to be trapped at sea.

In a statement released Monday, the International Maritime Organization declared that over 300,000 seafarers "cannot be repatriated" given stringent travel restrictions established amid the ongoing outbreak. Now, the maritime group is calling on the United Nations to intervene.

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