09/03/2014 08:56 EDT | Updated 11/03/2014 05:59 EST

Sorel citizens raise money to send stranded Turkish sailors back home

The mayor of Sorel-Tracy has launched a fundraising campaign to help a dozen sailors from Turkey, who are stranded on a ship, fly back home.

The sailors have been living on the Phoenix Sun in Sorel-Tracy, which lies between Montreal and Trois-Rivières, for the last five months —​ and without pay for the last three months.

“It's an unacceptable situation. Our town has always fought for the rights of workers, and this is no exception,” said Sorel-Tracy Mayor Serge Péloquin.

Last spring, Ontario-based company Menpas Shipping flew the men from Turkey to repair the ship and sail it overseas for dismantling.

But the sailors said they stopped getting paid in July.

Since then, they've stopped working — surviving on the money they had, maxing out credit cards and relying on the kindness of strangers.

“Somebody brings tomatoes, some bring potatoes,” said Semih Ozkan, the captain of the Phoenix Sun.

But Ozkan said they are all anxious to get back home, and the town’s mayor launched a fundraising campaign to make that happen.

Péloquin is aiming to raise the $35,000 needed to send them home — and pay them what they're owed.

In the last few days, people have donated more than $7,000.

Menpas Shipping did not return CBC’s calls on Wednesday. The company had said in a previous interview with CBC that the crew's allegations they had not been paid and were starving were "false."

Péloquin said if he can't raise enough money with the campaign, the city will pay the difference to get them home.

“The main goal is to send them home,” he said, adding that he hopes the courts will force the company — or the ship's owner — to eventually pay them back.