British envoys say our waters safe for tourists


25-September-2012

Minister Morgan addressing delegates and guests at the meeting yesterday

Mrs Skoll was speaking in an interview at the start of a three-day meeting at which delegates hope to launch an Indian Ocean piracy awareness campaign dubbed Sea Safe and see how it can be applied to Seychelles.

They come from 10 British high commissions of eastern Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Also in the Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay resort meeting are representatives of the London Foreign Commonwealth office.

She said the delegates hope to come up with “firm idea of how we take forward discussions with other regional governments, whether that be the military and policy response to piracy. And also see how we can apply that to Seychelles”.

She said the Sea Safe campaign is for tourists and the yachting industry in general and is about “good common sense advice about what you do in these areas”.

Home Affairs and Transport Minister Joel Morgan said when we were initially faced with the pirate attacks we were unprepared for the severity of the attacks in and around the Seychelles exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“This was the most difficult time for us as we struggled to equip ourselves to combat a threat that we had never known before.

“President James Michel was quick to launch an appeal for assistance to the international community so that we could better face this challenge that threatened our sovereignty, our territory, our economic livelihood and our food security. He also rapidly established a multi-disciplinary high level committee to direct our response to piracy and to interact with other countries, so as to address and combat the problem.

“With the help of our many international partners, including the UK, Seychelles’ response to the pirate attacks was swift and strong. The committee quickly engaged our international partners for military cooperation agreements, for improving our surveillance capacity, for equipping our forces to be able to combat the pirates and for reinforcing our criminal justice system to be able to ensure the prosecution and incarceration of Somali pirates.

“When our seafarers were taken hostage and brought to Somalia, we quickly established a strong negotiations cell to secure the release of our people. We were not alone in this unenviable position of having to negotiate the release of hostages from criminals who hold no value for life, except as a means to try to extort money for their release. Our partners were of great help in assisting us in information gathering and for guiding us in hostage negotiations,” he said.

Mr Morgan noted that Seychelles spends a large amount of money to combat piracy within this part of the world, “mainly in protecting our EEZ but also in helping our partners to protect the high seas”.

He said Seychelles has fought back and has achieved a lot because of the support we have received.

“Our efforts have positioned us as the anti-piracy leader in the region. We are the only country in the region that has anti-piracy patrols at sea on a 24/7 basis, supported by our own air surveillance and that of our partners, and also supported by friendly naval forces,” he said, recognising the help of the European Union member states including the UK, and the help from India, the US, China and the UAE in this regard.

“That support has been timely and much appreciated by the government and people of Seychelles.”

Addressing the gathering, Tourism and Culture Minister Alain St Ange said: “We need to clean the perception that our main tourism islands are in pirates affected waters…”

“Seychelles is often over-referenced in reports of piracy – and this may create a perception, and more often than not, it does create that perception in consumers’ mind. This may in turn affect these potential visitors from making the decision to come, or not come, on holiday in our beautiful country.”

“Tourism and a lack of security, even a perceived lack of security, cannot co-exist.
He said our ocean remains “the last perfect cruise ship waters. They have granitic islands as well as coral islands in clear, clean and warm turquoise blue seas. They could throw in bird sanctuaries or two world heritage sites, they could even schedule a stop at our African Banks and play Robinson Crusoe, but not with Man Friday, but with the cruise ship serving crew on this deserted spectacular sand spit in the middle of the ocean”.

The British high commissioner said the meeting is offering a network to discuss issues of mutual relevance across the region, helping inform and develop appropriate responses to British nationals affected by piracy and its related crimes.

It said the Victoria mission was chosen to host the meeting due to its location at the heart of the Indian Ocean and in recognition of the regional leadership and commitment Seychelles is showing in the fight against piracy.

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