The Malta Independent 14 October 2019, Monday

Updated (3): Italy, Malta refuse entry to German rescue ship with 100 migrants

Tuesday, 27 August 2019, 14:11 Last update: about 3 months ago

Malta and Italy have both refused entry to a German humanitarian ship carrying migrants rescued off Libya from entering Maltese and Italian territorial waters.

The ship is close to Maltese territorial waters, a journalist on board has tweeted.

A spokesman for the Maltese government said that Malta is not the competent authority to deal with this situation, and refused entry.

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Decrees such as the one signed Tuesday by Italy's hard-line interior minister, Matteo Salvini, have become routine in his bid to prevent humanitarian rescue ships from bringing migrants to Italy.

This one targets a vessel operated by the German group Lifeline that picked up about 100 people Monday in a rubber lifeboat some 50 kilometers (31 miles) off the Libyan coast. Lifeline has urged the German government to help identify a safe harbor.

While Italy and Malta are the closest European ports, Italy has constructed a policy to exclude humanitarian rescue ships. Malta generally has accepted migrants rescued in its area of responsibility. The positions have led to numerous standoffs.

Mission Lifeline has requested assistance from EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos as well as from a number of other member states, including Germany.

“We recognise the historical contribution of frontline EU Member States providing safety for vulnerable people fleeing war in Libya where defenseless civilians are increasingly targeted. However, we are not in a position to manage a prolonged stand-off and, in order not to unduly burden the same frontline EU Member States, we ask for your urgent diplomatic intervention to disembark our guests. As a German NGO operating a German vessel, we are in contact with our flag-state to encourage a swift and humane solution for the 101 people onboard, based on EU solidarity and responsibility-sharing. Our overwhelming priority is their wellbeing and we will consider every course of action available to protect our guests. We respectfully ask that you work with us to facilitate an effective and humanitarian outcome,” the crew said.

In its reply to Lifeline, Malta said currently does not have the physical capacity to take in more migrants.

On Monday evening, 162 migrants that were rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta were brought to Malta. And last week, Malta allowed over 350 migrants to disembark after an agreement was reached between several EU countries. The government had said that none of the migrants would remain in Malta but it seems that none have left so far.

"Thus, your decision to address Malta is not only putting undue pressure on one particular member state (ie Malta), but also depriving your migrants a dignified reception when they disembark," Malta’s Rescue Coordination Centre said. 

The NGO ship  Eleonore is being captained by Claus-Peter Reisch, who had been prosecuted in Malta last year.  Last summer, captain Reisch was at the helm of the Lifeline, which had rescued 234 migrants at sea off Libya, and refused instructions to return the rescued migrants to Libya. When the ship was eventually allowed to dock in Malta, it was confiscated by the authorities and Reisch was eventually fined €10,000 for false registration of a rescue vessel.

Meanwhile, a group of migrants who were brought to Malta on the Alan Kurdi in July were flown to Germany on Tuesday.

In a tweet, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat thanked Germany for continue to honour its pledges to take migrants brought to Malta as part of European ad hoc agreements. 

 


File photo

 

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