Eritrea latest no-go zone for cruisers

03 Mar 2011

Australian cruisers heading around the world have another no-go zone to contend with.

While the situation in Eritrea has been unstable for some time, the US Embassy in Muscat has advised its citizens yet again to avoid both ports in Eritrea following the arrest of a man who has dual Australian and British nationality in December and his four crew.

As of mid-February neither the Australian or British consular officials had been allowed access and neither government website carried any update to say the situation had since been resolved, with the US updating an ongoing travel warning in late February.

Details are sketchy, but it appears the man, Western Australian skipper Adrian Troy, was arrested with his four crew while refuelling a vessel in the pirate-prone waters of Port Massawa.

Eritrean authorities failed to say why he was arrested, and the Australian government said it was “deeply concerned” about the situation.

“The government is supporting the efforts of the UK government to ensure consular access,” a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman told AAP.

“We will continue to push the Eritrean authorities for consular access (and) stay in close contact with British authorities who have been taking the lead on the case.”

The December arrests are not an isolated incident – four Germans sailed in and were similarly detained for four days before being released.

In its travel warning the US Department of State warned of the risks of travel to Eritrea and recommended US citizens defer all travel there.

“US citizens on ships and sailing vessels are strongly advised not to attempt to dock in Eritrean ports or travel through Eritrean waters.

“In December 2010, a British ship attempting to refuel in Massawa was detained by Eritrean authorities, and its crew of four has not been released. There are reports of additional vessels with nationals from other countries being detained for up to several months. In nearly all cases, the Eritrean government has neither given a reason for detention, nor granted consular access. The port of Assab is closed to private marine vessels.

“The Eritrean government continues to restrict the travel of all foreign nationals. These restrictions require all visitors and residents, including US diplomats, to apply in advance for permission to travel outside the Asmara city limits. Recently, the Eritrean government has started to refuse all new diplomatic travel permit requests; this situation may continue indefinitely. As a result, the US Embassy cannot provide emergency consular assistance outside of Asmara.

“A number of Eritrean-US dual citizens have been arrested without apparent cause. Once arrested, detainees may be held for extended periods without being told the purpose of their incarceration. Conditions are harsh – those incarcerated may be held in very small quarters without access to restrooms, bedding, food, or clean water. The Eritrean government does not inform the US Embassy when US citizens, including those who are not dual nationals, have been arrested or detained.”

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs website carries a travel warning reiterating the US advice:
“We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Eritrea at this time due to the dangerous security situation, the threat of terrorist attack against Western interests and the risk of sudden instability and violence.”

 – Caroline Strainig

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