It is beyond shameful that, once more, around 50 men and women have been stranded for days out at sea. They are being housed in miserable and unhygienic conditions on board the MV TALIA, a vessel intended for the transportation of animals. They were rescued on the explicit instructions of the Maltese authorities and are now waiting for a port of safety to be identified. Malta simply may not abdicate responsibility for people on its territory and for whom it is clearly responsible.
Whilst we fully appreciate the serious challenges posed by the arrival by sea of asylum-seekers, we underline that, as the state responsible for the search and rescue area where the rescue took place, Malta is responsible for coordinating the disembarkation of the rescued migrants in a port of safety. Furthermore, Malta human rights obligations require it to ensure that all who wish to apply for asylum in Malta are able to do so. Malta should also ensure that no one is subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, whether on board the rescuing vessel or in a country to which they are sent for disembarkation.
We are disgusted at the situation of over 160 men detained on the Captain Morgan ships, some for more than three weeks. In detaining them out at sea, Malta is denying them basic human rights, dignity and voice. The human body and the human spirit can only endure so much. These young men have been exposed to too much trauma, we fear their physical and mental well-being will deteriorate fast. Malta is responsible for their ongoing detention out at sea and for the conditions they are forced to endure.
We remind the authorities that these are compounded by the psychological distress that they would have been forced to endure in the past weeks and months throughout their journey, including the violence that they would have been exposed to in Libya.
We are utterly disillusioned by the news that, once more, in the space of less than two weeks, almost 150 people are stranded out at sea in Malta’s SAR, while Malta waits for other European states to step in and offer support.
Yesterday morning, NGOs and media sources reported that some 78 migrants had been rescued from a vessel in distress in Malta’s SAR. They are currently aboard the Marina, a commercial vessel, close to Lampedusa waiting for directions from Malta, the state responsible for ensuring rescue and disembarkation in a safe port, about where to disembark. NGOs monitoring the migrants’ situation have reported that they are lacking food, water and medical care.
A further 57 rescued migrants are on board the Captain Morgan vessel, Europa II, normally used for coastal cruising. The Europa II was chartered by the Maltese government in order to board migrants that were transferred from the private vessel that rescued them. The government has stated that they will remain there, on the high seas, until there are concrete commitments for their relocation from other European states.
We are deeply concerned that the fate of around 62 migrants in distress at sea remains shrouded in secrecy. For more than 24 hours, men, women and children were known by European and Maltese authorities to be in distress within Malta’s Search and Rescue Zone, yet nothing is known of actions taken to ensure their safety. We remain in the dark as to whether the Government decided to rescue them, to refuse their entry to Malta, to return them to Libya or to let them drown.
It is disconcerting that news of migrants about to drown and who could be saved by Malta’s prompt intervention does not trigger any sort of response from the Government. We wholly appreciate Malta’s challenges in managing the arrival of migrants and refugees. Yet it is nonetheless abhorrent that these challenges render us insensitive to loss of life right at our doorstep.
The Government must not remain silent before such tragic incidents and must fully disclose policies, decisions and actions that could result in loss of life.
We urgently call on the Prime Minister to ensure that all persons within Malta’s responsibility are rescued and that their safety is guaranteed. The nation cannot quietly celebrate Easter whilst men, women and children are drowning on our doorstep.
Saving lives and ensuring their disembarkation at a safe place is a fundamental legal obligation and also a moral imperative that can in no way be negotiated or renounced.
We also reiterate our message of two days ago: Malta must revoke its decision to close its ports to persons rescued at sea, whoever they are.