Migration disputes should not be solved by putting people’s lives at risk

Joint Italian and Maltese NGO Statement on incidents relating to people rescued at sea

Whilst we welcome the recent developments in relation to the disembarkation of rescued people on board the Alexander Maersk cargo and the ongoing coordination between the Governments of Italy, Malta, France and Spain, we urge all actors involved to immediately secure the disembarkation of the over 230 rescued people, among which children, unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable individuals, currently aboard the Mission Lifeline rescue ship.

Whilst we appreciate the need to clarify legal responsibilities, we emphasise that the protection of life and human dignity should remain the topmost priority.

In order to preserve the integrity of the maritime rule whereby all persons in distress are to be rescued, it is imperative that coastal states coordinate their efforts towards ensuring a prompt disembarkation at a place of safety.

This is a clear obligation under international law.

We are keen to clarify that NGOs rescuing persons in distress are not violating international norms, but rely on States to fulfil their obligations by indicating a safe port for prompt disembarkation of all rescued persons. We also remind the authorities concerned that disembarkation in unsafe places, such as Libya, would violate international law and is therefore not a valid option.

Thus, we express our concern with the announcement made by both the Italian and Maltese authorities on the intention of sanctioning the captain and crew of the Mission Lifeline rescue ship.

As Italian and Maltese civil society organisations, we reiterate that political disputes over migration responsibilities cannot be resolved by violating international law and placing people’s lives and wellbeing at risk.

Humanitarian and human rights obligations should always prevail over political considerations.

We therefore urge the forthcoming European Council meeting to urgently identify and implement much needed solutions to the situation in the Mediterranean, inspired by the principle of European solidarity and fully in line with the obligations related to the protection of human rights.

Statement issued by:

aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Associazione ONG Italiane (AOI), CONCORD Italia, Coordinamento Italiano NGO Internazionali (CINI), COSPE Onlus, Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service Malta, Kopin, LIBICO, Link 2007, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrant Women Association Malta, Moviment Graffitti, People for Change Foundation, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM), SOS Malta, SKOP, Terre des Hommes – Italy.


We commend Spain’s intervention, and urge Italy and Malta to avoid similar incidents.

Joint NGO Statement on the Aquarius incident

We commend Spain for accepting the disembarkation of the over 600 rescued migrants aboard the MV Aquarius. Without this intervention, the impasse between Italy and Malta over where to disembark the rescued migrants could have easily led to a humanitarian disaster. Spain’s intervention is an act of true solidarity, not only amongst EU Member States but also – and more importantly – with migrants and refugees trying to secure a safer life.

The protection of life and human dignity should remain the topmost priority under all circumstances. Whilst we appreciate the need to clarify specific legal responsibilities, the spirit of the law is to ensure the safety of all rescued persons, and also the integrity of the rescuing vessels and its crew. We also stress that disembarkation in unsafe places, such as Libya, would violate international human rights law and international law, and should therefore not be considered as an option.

In order to preserve the maritime rule whereby all persons in distress are to be rescued, it is imperative for coastal states to coordinate their activities towards ensuring a prompt disembarkation at a place of safety. This is a clear obligation under international law, rendered more pressing when the rescued persons include children, pregnant women and other persons in need of care and attention.

Finally, while we are aware of the challenges posed by the arrival of large groups of migrants and refugees, we urge Malta to do all that is necessary to ensure that it meets its legal and humanitarian obligations of offering a dignified reception to persons disembarked here. Once more we reiterate our commitment and our willingness to work with the authorities in order to achieve this objective.

Statement issued by:

aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Integra Foundation, International Association for Refugees, Isles of the Left, JRS Malta, KOPIN, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrant Women Association Malta, Moviment Graffitti, People for Change Foundation, SOS Malta.


We would like to commend the Government of Malta’s stand against the far right group Defend Europe

Photo from independent.co.uk

We would like to commend the Government of Malta’s stand against the far right group Defend Europe in refusing to allow the C-Star to enter Malta.

Under the deceptive premise of ‘saving lives’, the mission of the vessel C-Star claims to ‘defend Europe’ by disrupting humanitarian vessels and by returning refugees to the coast of Libya.

The scope and actions of Defend Europe must not be underestimated, their political ideology is dangerous and extreme.

The stance adopted by the Government of Malta sends out a clear message against the politics of hate and extremism.

Statement of:

aditus foundation, Graffiti,  Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), Kopin, The Critical Institute.


Malta could have done the right thing & shown solidarity

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.

Statement by: aditus foundation, Integra Foundation, JRS Malta


‘Is 23 April the day Europe decided to abandon people at sea?’: NGO comments on the statement from the European Council Special meeting of 23 April

We are disappointed at the measures proposed in the European Council Special meeting as they indicate an insistence on interpreting the deaths of over 1,000 persons as an illegal migration phenomenon. As long as Member States stick to this approach, migrants and refugees will perish as they knock on Europe’s doors.

In the spirit of our earlier statement on the recent tragedies in the Mediterranean, we welcome the Meeting’s clear conclusion that “our immediate priority is to prevent more people from dying at sea.” We also welcome the commitment to resettle higher numbers of refugees and to explore internal relocation programmes, as indications of solidarity with refugees and other States receiving and hosting them. Yet we are extremely saddened that the Statement is essentially yet another declaration that European Union borders will be reinforced, as evidenced by repeated references to “illegal migration flows”.

The Statement seems to indicate that there will be no extension of search and rescue coverage. If so, the commitment to prevent people from dying will remain a paper statement marking 23 April as the day the European Union decided to abandon people at sea. We are eager to see details of the upcoming roadmap, yet also remind the European Union Institutions and Member States of the extreme urgency to shift from discussion to action as the next tragedy could possibly be days away.

Furthermore, we question the Statement’s assumption that traffickers, smugglers and countries of transit are the true problems. Whilst it is undeniable that they are part of the problem, and therefore ought to be included in holistic solutions, their role remains secondary in the face of the impossibility of refugees to safely and legally enter the European Union. The proposed measures might be effective in curbing trafficking and smuggling activities from Libya, but will definitely lead to the opening up of new and possibly more dangerous routes.

_IGP1961

#AllLivesMatter solidarity walk (April 2015)

Once again, we urge the European Union not to forget the imperative of also ensuring dignified reception conditions for survivors, prompt access to asylum procedures and appropriate modalities to respectfully deal with corpses and their possessions.

Statement of:

aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Foundation for Shelter and Support of Migrants, Integra Foundation, International Association for Refugees, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), KOPIN, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrant’s Network for Equality, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, Peace Lab, People for Change Foundation, SOS Malta.