Repatriation of stowaways who have boarded at Abidjan :
Is the Ivory Coast Immigration Services’ position legally justifiable ?

by JC IMPOUTOU - June 2006
Owners are very often surprised to learn that they have to take care of repatriation of stowaways who came on board their vessel at Abidjan and disembarked a few minutes later at the outer roads. Why should we proceed with repatriation of people who lived quietly in Ivory Coast prior to the vessel's arrival? That is Owners' spontaneous reaction. Compared with other countries in the world, the Ivory Coast Immigration Services authorise more frequently the disembarkation of stowaways, whatever their place of boarding. In return, the Immigration Services require repatriation of the disembarked stowaways to their home country if they are not Ivorian citizens. As for the disembarkation, the stowaways' place of boarding does not affect the Immigration Services’ position.

It is really unfair that owners bear important costs for repatriation of people who clearly came on board the vessel at Abidjan. Without wishing to support the Immigration Services, their position is understandable on the basis of the provisions of article 69 of the Abidjan police regulations. This article stipulates that " during the ship's stay in the port of Abidjan, the Master has to take all necessary steps to prevent any fraudulent boarding. Before casting off, the Master has to carry out a systematic search of the ship the result of which is given to Harbour Master ".

It therefore transpires that it is the Master's fault if the stowaways board the vessel and if they are not discovered before sailing.

To give coherence to their position, the Immigration Services do usually accept to release stowaways who came on board at Abidjan when they are caught before the ship's sailing. The fact that the ship is still alongside or close to the quay convinces them more easily that it is an attempt to stow away and they sue the concerned people in a criminal procedure in accordance with the local law.

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