Joint NGO appeal to the Prime Minister to resolve the Alan Kurdi standoff
We strongly urge Malta to allow the disembarkation of the over 60 people rescued over nine days ago by the Alan Kurdi. In doing so, Malta will ensure a humane end to this incident that prioritises the preservation of lives over political and legal considerations. Whilst we appreciate that these considerations are of course central to the determination of responsibilities and obligations, these should not override or ignore the need to ensure the safety of all rescued persons and of the rescuing crew.
We remind Malta and the European Union
that Libya cannot be considered a safe port of disembarkation. Countless
reports have been revealing the appalling human rights violations suffered by
migrants in Libya. Furthermore, the recent escalation of violence in the
country highlights the increased lack of security for Libyans and migrants
alike. Forcibly returning migrants, as also Libyan nationals, to Libya would
expose them to torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, discrimination
and – in some cases – death.
We welcome Malta’s
decision to allow the disembarkation of the 49 migrants rescued by NGO boats,
most of whom spent 18 days at sea. Disembarkation will ensure that they are provided
with safety, shelter, and care.
We also appreciate the solidarity expressed by other Member States and institutions of the European Union, in agreeing to share the responsibility of hosting the rescued migrants.
We are appalled beyond words that, after 18 days of negotiations, 49 men, women and children remain stuck on a boat within sight of the Maltese shore.
In spite of countless calls for solidarity, European Member States have not managed to find a diplomatic solution to the current impasse.
This is nothing short of tragic and
shameful. It can only mean that we have
completely lost our humanity – as a people and a union of states that supposedly
upholds the values of solidarity, respect for human rights and human dignity.
We are extremely concerned to read of on-going negotiations between European Union Member States and Libya regarding the possible disembarkation in Libya of the twelve migrants rescued some days ago. Returning rescued migrants and refugees to Libya would expose them to serious human rights violations, which is a serious violation of international and European law.
International human rights law prohibits States from sending persons to countries where their life or freedom are in danger, or where they face a real risk of torture or inhuman and degrading treatment. Furthermore, in the context of rescue at sea, international maritime law requires that rescued persons – whoever they are – are disembarked at a place of safety. In view of the current turmoil in Libya, which is putting the lives of many Libyans at risk, and of the widely reported ill-treatment of non-Libyan migrants and refugees, it is clear that Libya cannot be considered a safe country in terms of international human rights law or of international maritime law.
In this regard we reiterate the September 2018 conclusions of the United Nations Refugee Agency:
“In light of the volatile security situation in general and the particular protection risks for third-country nationals, UNHCR does not consider that Libya meets the criteria for being designated as a place of safety for the purpose of disembarkation following rescue at sea.”
The undersigned non-governmental organisations, acting together as the #DontLetThemDrown initiative, strongly urge Malta, Italy and Spain to make sure that the rescued migrants are not disembarked in Libya under any circumstances. We urge the three Member States to reaffirm their commitment to fundamental human rights, as international legal obligations and also as shared European values.
We also call on the European Union institutions to ensure respect of these core values, and of the obligations boldly enshrined in the European Union Treaties and other legislation.
Furthermore, we appeal for the immediate disembarkation of the rescued migrants at a place of safety in order to avoid further deterioration of their situation and that of the crew members.