Civil society response to the news of safety of the ‘missing’ 110
It is with great relief that we welcome news of the safe disembarkation in Italy of the 110 persons assumed to have been stranded. We thank the Italian authorities for allowing their disembarkation and for providing them with shelter and safety. We also appreciate the statement issued by the Armed Forces of Malta, confirming that the AFM had been closely monitoring this boat for some time.
Civil Society Press Statement on the fate of over 100 people abandoned at sea
We are extremely concerned at the fate of over 100 men, women and children in distress at sea. We know that over the past few days they were in distress in Malta’s Search and Rescue Zone. We also know that a ship was ready to rescue them, but was prevented from doing so by Malta. Now, we are unable to say where they are, if they have been pushed back to Libya or even if they are alive. It is unacceptable that Malta relinquishes its duty to coordinate the rescue of persons in distress in its Search and Rescue Zone. It is also undemocratic and reprehensible that Malta has repeatedly refused to provide information on its decisions and actions.
We are extremely concerned at allegations that Malta is complicit in the on-going illegal pushback to Libya of over 100 migrants. Returning migrants to Libya means returning men, women and children to severe human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention, violence and torture, inhumane living conditions, human trafficking and slavery. It is entirely unacceptable for Malta to even consider engaging in such activities in its efforts to reduce the number of arrivals of persons by sea.
Publicly available information indicates the presence of Libyan Coast Guard ships in Malta’s Search and Rescue Zone. Malta’s responsibility for persons in distress within our Search and Rescue Zone is to coordinate their rescue and ensure their disembarkation at a port of safety. As strongly reiterated by the European Union Commission and by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Libya is not a safe port for migrants. Malta’s engagement with Libya’s Coast Guard for this to pick up persons from Malta’s Search and Rescue Zone is tantamount to an illegal pushback as it will anyway result in the return of persons to a place where lives and human rights will be at risk.
The Malta Independent carried an interview on the idea of renting a quarantine ship for rescued migrants. The idea is not new: Italy has also resorted to this measure.
Read the full interview here.
“Yet we find it somewhat absurd that we have normalised the idea of forcing people to live on a ship for a number of weeks. Neil Falzon, aditus foundation Director
Let’s remember that quarantine is a form of detention and there are clear rules on how a State can detain people, even in the case of disease prevention,” he explained.
“Indefinite detention is definitely not allowed, as is detention in a place where living conditions are undignified and abysmal.”
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.