Save lives at sea

At the end of August, Loujin, a four-year old Syrian girl, boarded a wooden fishing vessel on Lebanon’s coast with her mother and one year old sister, Mira, and set out across the sea with over sixty other people from Syria, Palestine and Lebanon. Running out of basic provisions and taking on water, they began sending out distress signals on 2 September, 2022. Those distress signals were immediately relayed to the Maltese authorities.

For days, the Maltese Authorities ignored the distress signals. They also ignored NGO calls for help. For days Loujin, her family, and their fellow travelers drifted in the eastern part of Malta’s search and rescue region (SAR). Commercial vessels passed within eyesight multiple times. The Maltese Authorities shamefully instructed none of them to intervene.

This inaction in defiance of the Law of the Sea and in violation of basic moral values and human rights has become a murderous pattern. Countless other asylum seekers in distress this summer and more and more people over recent years have not been helped to safety in furtherance of a Malta Government policy of non-assistance and forced pushbacks of migrants at sea. 

Finally, on 6 September, last Tuesday, the AFM instructed a cargo vessel, the BBC Pearl, to carry out a belated rescue. Loujin was unconscious when she was pulled onboard and died shortly after. Her last words were “Mother, I’m thirsty.” Her death was wholly predictable and preventable.

Her last words were “Mother, I’m thirsty.”

We ask you the Malta Government to reconsider your decision not to engage. Put an end to policies that currently dehumanize and brutalize the most vulnerable people; policies that deny the right to asylum, that delay rescue, that force people back to war zones and torturous detention camps.; policies that kill a four-year old girl and other children at sea.

We ask you to stop making us party to these cruel policies of abandonment. Rather, we ask you to act in solidarity with genuine respect for all human life.