The Malta Independent 23 February 2020, Sunday

NGO calls for end of criminalisation of rescue groups ahead of Malta migration summit

Saturday, 21 September 2019, 15:36 Last update: about 6 months ago

A migrant rescue NGO hopes that Monday's mini-migration summit in Malta will  address and improve the problems witnessed during these last months of EU states denying a safe port to search and rescue NGOs.

Mission Lifeline said these issues have led to repeated stand-offs whilst creating unsafe and dangerous conditions for the already vulnerable rescued people on board.

The statement was signed by Captain Claus-Peter Reisch, who was recently fined €300,000 by Italian authorities after entering the port of Pozzalo, defying a ban.

The NGO said it is demanding safe passage through the Mediterranean for all people fleeing their country and the end of the agreement with the so called "Libyan coastguard."

It also called for an end to the criminalisation of NGOs and a reform of the Dublin Regulations.

Interior Ministers from Malta, France, Italy Germany and Finland will meet on Monday at Fort St Angelo to discuss the 'Predictive Temporary Allocation Programme' which should decide on an agreement on how to manage migrant landings and relocation in Europe.

Since the beginning of 2019 and according to the organisation Missing Migrants, there have been 933 reported deaths in the Mediterranean Sea due to attempted crossing to Europe.

"Meanwhile, Search & Rescue operations conducted by humanitarian NGOs continue to be criminalised by European governments. The ship 'Mission Lifeline' has been seized for 15 months now. The crew on board is still waiting for authorisation to go out at sea. Every additional day the Lifeline is not allowed to leave the port, more avoidable deaths are occurring," the NGO said.

"This situation is part of a general migration policy of EU States as they continue to externalise their borders, criminalise NGOs conducting search and rescue operations and carry out illegal pushbacks. The consequences of these policies have not only led to people being returned to detention centres in Libya, which are notorious for their inhuman treatment of migrants, as numerous human right violations including, rape, torture and the trafficking of persons have been reported, but they also are generating preventable deaths in the Mediterranean and Agean sea." 
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