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Montevideo, December 18th 2018 - 21:30 UTC

Viarsa crew must stay in Australia, says magistrate

Tuesday, November 4th 2003 - 20:00 UTC
Full article

Crew facing illegal fishing charges after being taken into custody when their boat was apprehended in the Southern Ocean, have been refused an application to return to their country.

Last Friday (October 31), the Captain, three senior officers and one deckhand from Viarsa 1, sat and listened while lawyer, Phillip Laskaris, argued that they would be economically and culturally disadvantaged if they remain in Australia.

Mr Laskaris said that the Commonwealth Government's Department of Public Prosecutions, did not want to release the men as they were considered a "flight risk" yet, according to records, only one fishermen charged with an offence in the past had not returned for prosecution.

Mr Laskaris suggested that in order to reduce the possibility that crew members may not return for prosecution, the owner of Viarsa 1 and the crew's employer, Navalmar, should put a AUD 5.5 million deposit on the boat.

"It is not in the interest of Navalmar for any of the men not to re-appear," Mr Laskaris told the court.

Magistrate, Barbara Lane, however, was unsure as to the certainty that these measures would bring, given the evidence.

"There have been many well publicised cases of people leaving for Spain and not returning," she said

It did not help the situation that the company which employed the five men had cut their wages on October 3 and loaned them their bail at 7.5 per cent interest.

Magistrate Lane rejected suggestions of cultural disadvantage, saying that it is exactly the same for normal Australians, and Aboriginal people.

In the end, she ruled that the men's claim of economic hardship was not enough to allow her to exercise discretion and change their bail conditions. They must therefore remain in Australia until the trial, which could face a wait of up to two years.

"If their employer was still paying their wages, they would not have to return to their country," said Ms Lane.

Commonwealth Prosecutor, Mark Fletcher, said that the men could receive unemployment benefit of AUD 200 per week during their stay, or even work.

Mr Laskaris said that the conditions were too severe for men who had families abroad, were low income earners and were highly unlikely to be jailed for the offence.

Source: FIS

Categories: Mercosur.

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