The Malta Independent 29 February 2024, Thursday
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Updated: Malta refuses allegations that it broke international rules - government

Thursday, 19 July 2018, 18:48 Last update: about 7 years ago

Malta strongly refuted allegations in some reports quoting organisations saying that Malta broke international rules when directing rescued migrants to be disembarked in Tunisia.

A statement by the government said the applicable conventions stipulate that disembarkation should take place at the nearest place of safety. In this case, Tunisia was the nearest place that satisfies the requirement as a safe place of disembarkation.

The goverment said that it was reported to the Maltese authorities that the migrants initially refused to be rescued unless they would be taken to a European port, irrespective of international rules. Such a situation would not only have been illegal but would have created a precedent against the said rules.

It was only later that they accepted to board the ship that rescued them, and which complied with international rules, the government said.

Four humanitarian groups had said a commercial boat carrying 40 migrants who had been stranded in the Mediterranean Sea has been waiting to get a green light to dock in the Tunisian port of Zarzis for more than 48 hours.

The groups, most of them based in Tunisia, said Thursday that Tunisian authorities were deciding whether to grant the boat entry after Italy, Malta and France refused. Tunisian authorities couldn't immediately be reached to discuss its stance, the Associated Press reported.

The migrants reportedly were at sea for five days before a Maltese ship picked them up and then transferred them Monday to the Tunisian-flagged Sarost 5.

The humanitarian groups called on the Tunisian government to and accept the migrants. The Maltese government refuted claims it had violated international maritime laws by directing the migrants to Tunisia, the nearest port.

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