The Malta Independent 25 October 2021, Monday

Updated: Young protesters persist in front of Parliament marking day 35 of migrants kept at sea

Karl Azzopardi Wednesday, 3 June 2020, 11:07 Last update: about 2 years ago

Several young protesters have been made their stand in front of Parliament over the past month in the names of the migrants that are being kept on four tourist boats anchored 13 nautical miles out, just outside Maltese territorial waters. Wednesday marked the 35th day (5 weeks) that they have been kept at sea.

The protests are being led by a group of students, including Xandru Cassar who has already made headlines at the start of April wherein he spent three days in front of Castille after the government took the decision to close Malta's ports due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This decision faced a lot of backlash from migrant NGOs and activists since this meant that migrant boats were not going to be allowed into Malta even if they were within Malta's Search and Rescue Zone.

Cassar had pitched a tent in front of Castille in protest after the government refused to provide a port of safety for multiple migrant boats that were being left at sea. On the third day of his protest, Prime Minister Robert Abela had a meeting with Cassar and while it is unknown what transpired between the two, Cassar seemed hopeful that the PM will get back to him and save those stuck between the sky and the sea.

Less than a month later, Cassar restarted his protest, this time in front of Parliament after the government took the decision to charter a number of tourist boats to take in migrant boats in Malta's S&R Zone without having any migrants come into Malta.

Cassar has been very vocal about his disagreement with this decision on his Facebook profile, saying that the even though the PM has said that 'health is his top priority', "he is still ready to play with people's lives"

Up until today there are almost 500 migrants being illegally kept on four tourist boats anchored 13 nautical miles out, just outside Maltese territorial waters and it has been 35 days since the first boat was charted, he said.

Alongside his fellow activists, Cassar has been protesting outside of the parliament since day 25 and they even wrote a letter addressing their concern towards the treatment of these migrants which they handed out to various ministers including the PM.

In a press call he sent earlier this morning, he explained that their letter has been ignored so today marks the next stage in their protest Cassar said.

"The aim is to put pressure on our elected representatives to respect the basic human rights of these people - by virtue of their humanity, they deserve to be on dry land in a safe port. They are being prevented from applying for asylum - as far as we know - and worse, they are being held illegally in inhumane conditions, that are degrading and tortuous," the call stated.

Cassar, on Wednesday evening, gave a speech.

“The Government led by Robert Abela is keeping people hostage to political games. In doing so, it is breaching fundamental human rights and is in contempt of the dignity of human life.

This is the reality we are facing. At this instant, a few miles away from our shores, no less than 425 people are being kept on Maltese boats.”

“For five weeks, some of these people have been there; thirty five days without knowing what will become of them. These people are effectively being psychologically tortured as a consequence of lack of information on what their future holds and of being denied their fundamental rights, in arbitrary detention...for five whole weeks. More so, these Maltese boats are not made for the high seas; boats which were not designed to host upwards of 100 people, day and night, sun and rain. And I mention the elements because, as we have seen over the last few days, from the comfort of our homes, the weather is everchanging; nobody wants to be at sea in these circumstances.”

“With this, one must add that these people do not have access to legal assistance, interpreters or AWAS staff. It is for these reasons that myself and other youths and students, over the last two weeks, have been demonstrating in front of Maltese Parliament. As citizens of a democratic country, we believe that fundamental human rights should be protected in every circumstance. We are also here as human beings, because we insist that the dignity of life should never be vilified in this manner, not even for a single day. By means of this demonstration, we are calling for the 425 people being kept on these boats to be allowed to disembark at a safe port. Fundamental human rights should come first and foremost. Once these people have been allowed to disembark, the procedures to establish the right to asylum can take place.”

“We are present here to remind the Members of Parliament of the circumstances of these people incarcerated at sea, and, more so, of their responsibility in their role as elected representatives. As was mentioned in a letter we presented to Parliamentarians a few weeks ago, today we are once again asking whoever is in a position of power and influence to make use of all the means possible to ensure that the situation changes, and as soon as possible. I would like to call on the Maltese Government, which bears control over these vessels, to ensure that first and foremost, human life and its dignity are protected, and these people are allowed to disembark.”

“I would like to make a sincere appeal to youths and students; we have given so much attention, and rightly so, to the degrading treatment, the disregard for human rights and the loss of life in the United States. It is encouraging to see youth understanding and participating in current affairs, expressing our disapproval of that which is unjust. I encourage youths and students who feel that the treatment of these 425 is unjust to contact us on Facebook Messenger, to join us next week, when more people will be here.”

“In solidarity with these people, and for the sake of the protection of human rights and human lives, myself along with other students are going to keep protesting till these people are allowed to disembark. Once again, I encourage those of goodwill to contact us on Facebook Messenger.”



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