We are appalled at the way Italy and Malta treated the migrants and crew aboard the vessel Golfo Azzurro. Relying on restrictive and questionable interpretations of legal obligations in order to deny disembarkation created an inhumane situation, achieving absolutely nothing but more human suffering and pain.
It is unacceptable for States to behave in this manner, toying with the lives and security of people as they attempt to resolve their diplomatic disagreements.
Without access to complete information regarding the precise rescue location and procedures, we are not in a position to establish with certainty whether the recused migrants ought to have been disembarked in Italy or in Malta. However, we can say with certainty that under international human rights law and international maritime law disembarkation in Libya was an absolute non-starter.
This would have exposed the rescued migrants to risks of loss of life or of serious human rights violations, an unacceptable resolution to the impasse.
It is now opportune to remind Malta of its several calls for solidarity in dealing with refugee flows. Malta was in the prime position to show solidarity with Italy, a State that has solely hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants. Malta could also have extended its solidarity to the three migrants who were in need of safety and, as days passed by, humanitarian assistance.
Malta could have done the right thing. Instead it chose to abandon the migrants and crew to their fates out at sea, potentially for days.
Solidarity is not a one-way street. It requires long-term commitment to support whoever is in need, and whenever the need arises. We strongly urge Malta to revisit its understanding of the principle, and to distance itself from a migration policy based on self-interest and disregard for human life.