EU Council president Donald Tusk supports Malta ban on NGO vessels

Donald Tusk said that through its agreement the council had demonstrated support for the actions of the Maltese authorities

EU Council President Donald Tusk said the council supported the actions taken by the Maltese authorities
EU Council President Donald Tusk said the council supported the actions taken by the Maltese authorities

European Council President Donald Tusk has said that the text of the migration deal demonstrated the council’s support of the actions of the Maltese authorities, which yesterday said it would be closing its ports to NGO-operated rescue vessels.   

The Maltese government said that the decision had been taken after it emerged that the MV Lifeline, a rescue vessel that found itself at the centre of an international dispute last week, was seemingly operating without the necessary ship registration documents in order.

The decision came as European leaders were meeting in Brussels for a two-day European Council summit, which opened with a discussion on migration.

While a migration agreement was reached, European leaders including Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Tusk himself have said that it was not enough to be considered a breakthrough.

“We have sent a clear message to all vessels, including those of NGOs, operating in the Mediterranean, that they must respect the law and must not obstruct the operation of the Libyan Coast Guard,” said Tusk.

“This demonstrates our clear and univocal support for the actions of the Maltese authorities.”

'EU these are your victims'

However on the same morning that the agreement was reached, news reports out of Libya said that up to 100 migrants were feared dead after their boat capsized off the coast of Tripoli, prompting NGOs and human rights activists to condemn the decision which comes at a time when migrant crossings from Libya have returned to pre-2015 levels. 

"We are shocked to learn that 1 day after the fatal #EUCO we are facing yet another tragedy. The mortality is dramatically on the rise. #EU these are your victims," tweeted Seat Watch 3, an NGO which operates a rescue vessel which is currently unable to leave Malta.

Similarly Médecins Sans Frontières warned that destroying independent NGO search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean would only lead to more unnecessary deaths.

The captain of the Astral, which is operated by the Spanish Proactiva humanitarian group, also expressed doubts about whether the Libyan Coast Guard was well-equipped enough to carry out rescue operations, adding that they had never responded to requests to offer rescue and had even opened fire on NGO vessels in the past.  

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