Nautilus International and the UK Chamber of Shipping have welcomed assurances from the Government that Masters and crews of merchant ships will not be criminalised for rescuing distressed persons at sea and bringing them ashore in the UK, and urged for that to be codified in legislation.
In reply to a joint letter to Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, the minister for Immigration Compliance and Justice Chris Philp said the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill does not seek to punish humanitarian actions and that the Government 'recognises and welcomes the desire of individuals and community groups to help'.
'The Nationality and Borders Bill targets ruthless criminal gangs who put lives at risk by smuggling people across the Channel,' Mr Philp said.
Nautilus International general secretary Mark Dickinson said: 'We are reassured by the Government's commitment but would emphasise that under international law Masters are required to assist anyone found at sea who is in danger and it is not for the Master, nor any of the ship’s crew, to determine the status of those being rescued.
'Fear of being criminalised for fulfilling their obligations to persons lost at sea is real and whilst the government’s commitment is very welcome, we would prefer that the legislation is drafted in a way that puts this commitment beyond legal doubt.'
UK Chamber CEO Bob Sanguinetti said: 'We were deeply concerned that the Nationality and Borders Bill could have led to the prosecution of seafarers rescuing persons found at sea whose lives were in immediate danger. The co-operation and assistance of coastal states is of the utmost importance, and it is reassuring that the British Government will continue to support those who perform humanitarian actions at sea.'
While the Government has committed to fully addressing these issues in policy guidance, Nautilus International and the UK Chamber urged it to also be made clear in the legislation.
Nautilus International and the UK Chamber are proud of the roles that its members have played in preserving lives and coming to the aid of those found in danger.