MANILA, Philippines: The European Union (EU), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and their allies are urgently calling for the release of 25 seafarers, including 17 Filipinos, who have been held captive by Houthi rebels since November 19th.
According to reports from the Associated Press, Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for hijacking the vessel due to its alleged connection to Israel. They declared that “all ships belonging to the Israeli enemy or that deal with it will become legitimate targets.”
The hijacking occurred in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, which is a critical shipping route connecting Europe with the Middle East and Asia.
EU Ambassador to the Philippines, Luc Véron, emphasized the importance of the immediate and safe return of all seafarers, including the 17 Filipino crew members of the Galaxy Leader. In a statement shared on social media, Véron highlighted the joint statement issued by the EU, the United States (US), NATO, and their allied partners. This statement addresses the recent Houthi attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea.
The joint statement, signed by EU High Representative Josep Borrell, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and representatives from Australia, the Bahamas, Japan, Liberia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, the US, and Yemen, condemned the Houthi-led seizure of the Galaxy Leader on November 19th and the unjust detention of its 25-member international crew.
The signatories expressed their concern that such behavior not only endangers the well-being of the seafarers but also threatens the movement of essential commodities, including food, fuel, and humanitarian assistance, to destinations worldwide.
The statement further condemned the Houthi interference with navigational rights and freedoms in the waters around the Arabian Peninsula, particularly the Red Sea. The attacks originating from Houthi-controlled territories in Yemen, including the December 3rd attacks against three commercial vessels in the Southern Red Sea, connected to 14 nations, were highlighted as a threat to international commerce and maritime security.
The signatories called on all states to refrain from facilitating or encouraging the Houthis, emphasizing that there is no justification for these attacks, which impact countries beyond the flags under which these ships sail.
They reiterated the urgent plea for the release of the Galaxy Leader crew and ship and urged the Houthis to cease any additional attacks on commercial vessels in the region’s vital waterways.
The Department of Foreign Affairs announced on November 22nd that concerned agencies have been making diplomatic representations with foreign governments to secure the safe release of the Filipino hostages.
Senator Maria Josefa Imelda “Imee” Marcos expressed her concern that Filipino seafarers could become “collateral damage” in the Israeli-Hamas conflict. She highlighted the fact that Yemeni rebels sympathetic to Hamas militants seized the Israeli-owned cargo ship with Filipino workers onboard. Senator Marcos has urged the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Migrant Workers to negotiate the release of the Filipino seafarers as the Israeli-Hamas conflict expands beyond the Gaza Strip.
Filipino seafarers constitute 25 percent of the global maritime industry’s workforce, with nearly half a million serving on cargo and cruise ships.
Source: The Manila Times