The Malta Independent 20 February 2019, Wednesday

Updated: Sea-Watch rescue ship receives distress call from another boat of migrants

Friday, 28 December 2018, 12:25 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Sea-Watch 3 has received a distress call from another boat of migrants and has mounted a search for the troubled vessel.

Contacted by The Malta Independent, a spokesperson for the NGO said that their boat had received an Inmarsat satellite message from the Italian Coastguard’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Rome on Thursday morning about a boat of migrants which was in distress.

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The Sea-Watch 3, however, did not clear co-ordinates of where the distressed vessel was, and so they headed south towards what was an estimated interception point.  Until now, however, the spokesperson said, the Sea-Watch had not received any further communication from MRCC Rome and they had not found the boat.  The search for the distressed vessel is still ongoing.

The NGO was in the news on Thursday after it claimed that five countries, Malta being one of them, had refused to provide the Sea-Watch with a safe port to discharge 32 migrants that had been rescued six days prior. 

“Five countries of the so-called Christian West have denied the rescue ship Sea-Watch 3, its crew of 22, and their 32 rescued guests any help in finding a port of safety over the Christmas holidays. The ship remains stranded at sea – in yet another political limbo, proving the EU’s blatant reluctance to make even the smallest humanitarian concession to its deadly anti-migration policy”, the NGO said in a statement issued on Thursday.

The five countries mentioned are Malta, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany.  There are four women, three unaccompanied minors, two young children and a baby amongst those 32 rescued.  The initial signal from MRCC Rome indicated that there were some 75 migrants onboard the distressed vessel that the Sea-Watch was searching for.

The Sea-Watch was the centre of controversy over the summer after it was blocked from leaving Malta for nearly four months.

 

Don’t look the other way – NGOs

In a statement, 18 NGOs appealed to the government to “lead by example” and allow the stranded migrants to disembark in Malta.

“As Malta and the rest of Europe celebrate Christmas, 32 men, women and children, have been stranded out at sea for days waiting for a country to relent and take them in. The tragic truth is that not a single member state has stepped up and offered refuge.

This is beyond regrettable, it is a travesty of humanity. We, the undersigned NGOs, urge the government to once more lead by example and allow the people stranded on board the rescue vessel, Sea Watch 3, to disembark in Malta.

Malta should do this whether or not it is legally responsible for disembarkation in terms of international law. Malta, like all other European states, has a legal obligation to offer refuge to people fleeing persecution. The standard argument these days is that migrants rescued at sea should be returned to Libya, even if we know that they will be imprisoned in horrible conditions, tortured, raped, or sold as slaves.

This is a flagrant violation of our freely assumed commitment to ensure that no one is returned to a country where their safety is not guaranteed and where they are at risk of torture or other violations of their rights. Arguing that we are somehow absolved of responsibility for their fate, because Malta is not intervening directly, is nothing short of facile, as responsibility is not only legal, it is also moral and ethical. It is nothing short of cynical to use laws enacted to preserve life and protect human dignity to justify a refusal to provide a safe haven to people fleeing persecution. In so doing, we violate the spirit of the law, under the pretence of upholding its letter. It is for this reason that we call on Malta not to look the other way, and to open its doors to those who need it most.

This press release was issued by: aditus foundation, African Media Association, Allied Rainbow Communities, Christian Life Community (CLC) Malta, Cross Culture International Foundation (CCIF), Department for Inclusion and Access to Learning - Faculty of Education University of Malta, Integra Foundation, JRS Malta, Kummissjoni Ġustizzja u Paċi, Malta Emigrants Commission, Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement, People for Change Foundation, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM), Solidarity with Migrant Group, SOS Malta, Spark 15, The Critical Institute, Women’s Rights Foundation

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