The Malta Independent 25 March 2019, Monday

Watch: Put people before politics and open the ports, 45 organisations say

Albert Galea Tuesday, 8 January 2019, 16:26 Last update: about 3 months ago

Forty-five NGOs and organisations have called on the Maltese government to put people before politics and allow the two stranded NGO vessels with 49 migrants onboard to dock in Malta.

In a joint statement read out in front of the Prime Minister's office at Castille, the organisations said that they were “shocked” and “appalled beyond words” that these 49 migrants remain stuck off Maltese shores.

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They described the situation as being “nothing short of tragic and shameful”, saying that it made it very clear that as individuals and countries “we have completely lost our humanity”.

Acknowledging the “issues that the situation raises”, the statement reads that this is a European challenge requiring a European solution. However, they said, this cannot be “an excuse to abdicate our responsibility to save lives at any cost”.

“The duty to save lives is not only a legal but also a moral imperative which can never be subjected to political conditions, such as the availability of concrete offers of relocation or the fear of creating a precedent”, the statement read.

The organisations questioned what was more important: scoring political points or saving lives, adding that for them the answer was clear: people are more important.

Representatives of the organisation then entered the Prime Minister's Office in Castille and presented the statement and the request for a meeting with the Prime Minister to one of his spokespersons. They were assured that an answer to their request for a meeting would be given in the coming hours.

Since migrants are now in Maltese waters, Malta has "very clear legal obligations" towards them - Neil Falzon

 

Speaking to The Malta Independent, Aditus Foundation’s Neil Falzon said that there are a number of reasons why they suspect that the government is behaving in the manner that they are, but primarily they think that the government wants to send a very strong message to NGOs that rescue out at sea will not be tolerated – that migrants should not be leaving Libya to come to Malta, which we find to be a very worrying suggestion.  Falzon continued, saying that the signatory organisations feel that the government is using the present incident to send a message also to the European Union that without solidarity Malta will not be playing its part.

Asked if by keeping the migrants stranded out at sea Malta was legally in the wrong, Falzon said that from their perspective, the migrants are presently within Malta’s territorial waters which means that Malta has "very clear legal obligations" towards them, including respecting their fundamental human rights.  “At the moment their lives are at risk which means Malta is potentially in severe violation of their rights”, Falzon added.

Asked about the fact that these migrants were picked up outside of Malta’s search and rescue zone, Falzon said that the question is on where they are now, adding that they are in Malta’s legal obligation sphere. 

“What we do admit is that there are very complex legal and political questions around this issue but we don’t feel that they need to be discussed now whilst people wait out at sea. First bring people to safety and then resolve the diplomatic and the political issues”, Falzon concluded.

Video & Photos: Luke Zerafa

 

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