The Malta Independent 20 January 2019, Sunday

Magistrate criticises naming Archbishop as part of crew of impounded vessel

Friday, 11 January 2019, 12:15 Last update: about 8 days ago

Magistrate Joe Mifsud has criticised the placing of Archbishop Charles Scicluna on the crewlist of the impounded humanitarian vessel MV Lifeline, a measure adopted to allow him to visit the ship.

The vessel was at the centre of international media attention last June when it was allowed to dock and disembark its 234 migrant passengers in Malta. The ship’s captain, Claus Peter Reisch was then charged with a number of offences.

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Magistrate Mifsud said that for anything to be loaded or unloaded from the vessel required permission from the court.

The court had limited access to the vessel to its crew, but last week the Archbishop had gone aboard to express solidarity with the NGOs' mission to save lives at sea. In order to circumvent the court’s order, the Archbishop had been listed as a crewmember on the ship’s crew manifest.

The change was taken as being an act of defiance by some quarters of the media, but the court said that its investigations had shown that Scicluna had not wanted to challenge the court’s orders and had been unaware of the paperwork change.

“It’s not right that a humanitarian gesture by the Bishop…be described as an act of defiance by people with an agenda,” said the court.

Meanwhile, a sitting in the case scheduled for today has had to be postponed to allow the accused to visit his sick mother.

The court ordered that the crew manifest reflect the real crewmembers and encouranged the immigration authorities to prevent this type of declaration again. Logic and good sense said that the Archbishop of the diocese should not end up listed as a member of the crew and that this is should not be allowed to pass the authorities by without raising any flags.

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