The Malta Independent 9 August 2020, Sunday

Government to release call for ships to keep rescued migrants on

Thursday, 30 July 2020, 11:45 Last update: about 10 days ago

The government will be releasing a call for expressions of interest in the provision of vessels with the aim of them being used to keep migrants in quarantine on when they are rescued. 

In a statement, the government said that it is working to reduce the amount of arrivals to Malta, so much so that in recent weeks thousands of immigrants who had left Libya were then “rescued” in Libyan waters and taken back to where they started their voyage. 

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Work on relocating migrants and deporting those who are not eligible for protection has also continued, the government said. 

Despite this, the government continued, there remain cases in Maltese waters where the choice is between rescuing the migrants or leaving them to die. 

“In these cases, Malta has no choice other than to rescue in accordance with the legal and international obligations it is tied to”, the government said. 

They said that up till today, all the necessary precautions were taken in cases when migrants positive for Covid-19 were found, with these cases always being isolated and a Red Cross clinic being opened at the Hal-Far Open Centre. 

“At this stage, the Maltese government feels that there should be the choice to use these vessels so that the situation can be controlled and managed better”, the government said. 

They said that this vessel must compliment the government’s work, which they said is before anything focused on preventing arrivals, and its use is such for when the AFM have no choice other than to save people who are drowning.

The news comes after two groups of migrants were rescued by the AFM this week, with 85 of those testing positive for Covid-19. 66 out of a group of 94 rescued on Tuesday evening tested positive for the virus, while health authorities announced on Wednesday - precisely 12 minutes before the aforementioned government statement was released - that 19 out of a group of 33 rescued had also tested positive for the virus.

It is not the first time that this option is being used by the government.  Throughout the pandemic, the government had closed its ports to all entries - including rescued migrants.

After a number of weeks, some 400 migrants were being held on four tourist vessels, with these vessels only being brought in after the migrants onboard one of the boats threatened to take it over.

The migrants had been on the vessels out at sea for over a month while the government tried, in vain, to hash out a European solution for the relocation of the migrants.

The cost of the operation was reported by the government as being €1.7 million.

 

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