A family in Shimoni village in Lungalunga, Kwale County, asked the government to help bring back their relative who has been held captive in Somalia for two weeks.
Omar Mgalla, the father of Mohammed Omar Mgalla, said his son is among five fishermen held captive in Mdoa village, Somalia, after falling out with their employer.
The other four are Omari She, Hamisi Zito, Kimosha Abdalla and Abdalla Gwashe.
“I am worried about my son. He has told me that they were arrested and their lives threatened. They are even sleeping in the bush and are not allowed to leave the area until they pay the money [the employer is demanding],” said Mzee Mgalla.
He said he had spoken with his son by phone and he had explained the fishermen’s predicament.
There were originally 12 detained fishermen but seven were released after part of the required Sh270,000 was raised.
Mzee Mgalla said he had raised Sh50,000, which he sent to his son, but he had not been released. At least Sh100,000 needs to be raised to pay the employer.
“I have tried reaching out to our leaders and some of the human rights organisations, but none of them has responded. My plea is that my son together with the other fishermen are brought back home safely,” he said.
Mzee Mgalla said his son’s employer demands to be paid Sh270,000 that he said he used to transport the fishermen from Kenya to Somalia to work for him.
Part of the money was raised by the captives and seven of them were released to come back to Kenya.
Mr Omar, who spoke to journalists by phone Monday, explained that five of them have been held captive until their employer is compensated.
“We quit the job because of insecurity issues. We would also be attacked and also have our fish snatched by Somali fishermen who claimed that it is their fish. We feared for our lives,” he said.
He added that this prompted them to quit their jobs and they told their employer that they did not like the working conditions and wanted to return to Kwale County.
The employer instead asked for compensation because they had not worked as agreed.
He pleaded with the government to help bring them back home, saying they live in deplorable conditions and their lives are at risk. He said they get food from people that he claimed were Somali soldiers.
Preliminary investigations revealed that the fishermen went to Somalia after an agreement with the Shimoni Beach Management Unit, said Lungalunga police boss Peter Nzimbi.
“This deal went sour. The fisherman had been given a down payment when they went to work in the foreign country. But the owner insisted that they pay his money back [before he allows] them to come back to Kenya,” he told the Nation.
Shimoni BMU chairperson Rishad Iki Hamisi confirmed that an investor had come to the area on August 28, seeking fishermen to work for him in Somalia.
“We had an agreement and he paid each one of them Sh20,000 as a down payment and they left on September 1. But it seems like the working conditions were not good enough, prompting our members to request to come back home,” he said.
Of the original 12 fishermen, seven returned to Kenya after paying back the employer, he said.
He added that the employer insists he wants Sh89,000 more before releasing them. Mr Hamisi said he had informed local authorities and they were working to raise the money.