The Malta Independent 22 January 2021, Friday

Malta, EU turn back on civilians, refugees as Libya burns – Sea-Watch

Friday, 7 September 2018, 09:17 Last update: about 3 years ago

As fighting rages in Libya, Malta and the European Union continue to turn their backs to civilians and refugees who are caught in the crossfire, NGO Sea-Watch said in a statement today.

The NGO said it has filed a legal protest against the Maltese grounding of the reconnaissance aircraft Moonbird, which has not been allowed to fly from Malta for several weeks after the government ordered that NGO vessels and aircraft are prohibited from leaving Malta pending the conclusion of an investigation into NGOs’ operations.
On 1 September 1, 2018, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted Malta was “following situation in Tripoli with deep apprehension. [The] international community cannot turn a blind eye and pretend it is not happening.” At that date, fierce fighting in and around Tripoli had been ongoing for three days. One day later a state of emergency was declared, Sea-Watch said.
The Libyan civilian population and thousands of refugees and migrants are caught in between various militias without any possibility to get out of harms’ way. “Muscat talks of not looking away and illegally impedes the deployment of civilian rescue assets and of the reconnaissance aircraft Moonbird. While diplomats are evacuated by sea, thousands fleeing war and violence are deserted by the European Union again. Those who speak of human rights, should act as well”, Johannes Bayer, member of Board from Sea-Watch, said.
According to media reports, apart from most of the supply infrastructure, also the so-called Libyan Coast Guard has collapsed, so that there is no sea-rescue whatsoever left in the central Mediterranean Sea. Nearly all civilian rescue assets are detained in various ports, due to political interventions by EU member states – three of them, the Sea-Watch 3, Seefuchs and Lifeline, in Malta. “While rival militias wage war against each other for every meter of land, without any regard for residential areas or refugee detention centers, European states – with Malta leading the way – only act to efficiently hinder civilian rescue efforts. Joseph Muscat should save his hypocritical tweets when he is not ready to act accordingly,” Bayer said.
Malta also prevents the Sea-Watch search plane Moonbird since May 25, 2018, from flying its human rights observation mission over the Central Mediterranean. Just as for the detention of Sea-Watch 3, the island state remains short on a legal justification for this obstruction. After months of negotiations Sea-Watch now filed a legal protest, it said.
 “We have kept still and tried to reach an agreement on diplomatic ways for long enough. The case of Moonbird shows that Malta not only shuts off sea rescue but also wants to hide the disastrous consequences of this blockade from the eyes of the world. One cannot turn a blind eye and pretend it is not happening more actively, than Joseph Muscat is right now," Bayer said.
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