Six-week Ordeal Ends for Pacific Drifters

Posted: 
02/02/16
Themes: 
Migrant Assistance

Papua New Guinea - IOM in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Papua New Guinea (PNG) have teamed up to help two drifters return safely home. The men, from PNG’s New Ireland Province, spent 41 days on the vast expanses of Pacific Ocean. Three companions died on the journey.

On 28 September last year, Rickson Masol, 32, and Chris Pagan, 49, and three others, including a pregnant woman, were sailing from their home village of Fissoa on the mainland to Simberi Island when their boat experienced engine failure and started to drift. Within hours they had lost all communication with land.

Over the next six weeks they floated almost 1,000 kilometres to Satawan Atoll Island in the FSM, where local residents found them in surprisingly good health, having survived by drinking rainwater and coconuts which washed past their boat.

From Satawan Atoll in Chuuk State, the men were transported to Pohnpei State where a faith-based organization ‘Every Home for Christ Fellowship’ was able to provide them with shelter, food and clothing.

The residents of Satawan Atoll helped them to get in touch with their families in Papua New Guinea, who contacted IOM for assistance.

As in previous cases, IOM engaged relevant government authorities in FSM, PNG and transit countries and activated the Humanitarian Assistance to Stranded Migrants (HASM) fund.

After a prolonged and logistically challenging coordination process involving various governmental, diplomats and NGO partners the two men have been flown home and reunited with their families.

The rescued men arrived at Jackson airport in Port Moresby yesterday and were received by IOM, their family members and media.

“We are so happy to be home,” said Masol. “Being lost at sea was terrifying, but we have been treated so kindly by everyone since then.”

IOM PNG Chief of Mission George Gigauri noted that this rescue was tinged with sadness for the three travellers who did not make it. “There are surely many other cases that we never hear about, in these remote islands and oceans,” he said.

IOM PNG is running a maritime safety awareness campaign which involves partnerships with the Government, the small craft authority, the maritime authority and NGOs. It is also involved in the development of policy change and licensing procedures, concentrating on the maritime provinces of Morobe, Alotau and Bougainville. 

The HASM fund was established in 2005 to allow IOM to respond globally as a provider of last resort to urgent requests from national governments and to assist with the repatriation of stranded migrants. Since 2007, IOM has repatriated 19 people from FSM to PNG.

For further inquiries, please contact George Gigauri at IOM Papua New Guinea, Tel: +675.73200136, Email: ggigauri@iom.int. Or Stuart Simpson at IOM FSM, Tel: +691. 9262460, Email: ssimpson@iom.int

IOM helps two drifters from Papua New Guinea’s New Ireland Province return safely home from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). © IOM 2016