The government’s continued abdication of search and rescue responsibilities is contributing to deaths in the Mediterranean
More than 1,300 people died or disappeared in the Central Mediterranean in 2022. These people – men, women, children, sons, and daughters – can be added to the deplorable death toll of more than 25,000 people who have died while crossing the Mediterranean since 2014.
The Maltese government’s continued failure to uphold its search and rescue (SAR) responsibilities contributes to this death toll by putting lives at risk. In 2022, Maltese authorities ignored more than 20,000 people in distress; 413 boats in distress in Malta’s SAR zone were not assisted, and only three boats were rescued by the Maltese Armed Forces.
Malta Refugee Council demands and official inquiry into the death of a young girl
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.
Joint Press Statement on the vigil for Loujin held on 16 September 2022
Publicly available information on Loujin’s tragic death is conflicting. One version claims Malta was alerted to the distress situation on 3 September and that no concrete action was taken to secure the lives of the persons aboard the fishing boat. Another version claims that Malta was informed on 6 September and every step was taken to protect all lives, including that of Loujin.
The version everyone must agree on is that Loujin did not survive the ordeal, dying of thirst in her mother’s arms.
Amsterdam, October 20, 2021 – Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, is being held accountable for illegally pushing back a Syrian family. The family was illegally deported to Turkey by Frontex in October 2016, shortly after arriving in Greece. It is the first time that Frontex through an action for damages is held responsible before the EU General Court for illegally deporting people and violating fundamental rights. Reports of similar pushbacks by Frontex have been piling up over the past years. The Syrian family is being represented by law firm Prakken D’Oliveira Human Rights Lawyers. Prakken D’Oliveira is supported by the Dutch Council for Refugees, BKB, Sea-Watch Legal Aid Fund and Jungle Minds.
The Syrian family, with four young children between the ages of 1 and 7, applied for asylum in Greece in October 2016. Their request was registered by the local authorities. Eleven days later, the family was nonetheless deported by Frontex and Greek authorities and taken onto a plane to Turkey without any access to an asylum procedure. Nor was an official expulsion order presented. During the flight arranged by Frontex and with their staff present, the four young children were separated from their parents. More so, they were ordered not to speak to each other. In Turkey, the family was immediately imprisoned. After release, they had no access to basic services and were unable to sustain themselves. Fleeing onwards, the family are now living in northern Iraq.
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.