NGOs write to EU Commissioner for intervention on Captain Morgan migrants

"Malta is treating the persons on board the vessels as if they were wholly outside the protection afforded by national, European and international law whilst simultaneously seeking assistance from European Union to keep this situation afloat" say NGOs

Rescued migrants are being held on Captain Morgan's Europa II and Atlantis vessels, anchored just outside Maltese territorial waters
Rescued migrants are being held on Captain Morgan's Europa II and Atlantis vessels, anchored just outside Maltese territorial waters

Representatives of three NGOs have written a joint letter to EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johannson, urging the EU to intervene with the Maltese authorities and find a swift solution to the ongoing detention of 167 rescued migrants who are being held offshore on Captain Morgan boats.

The migrants are being held aboard the private vessels Europa II and the Atlantis, just outside Malta’s territorial waters. 

Katrine Camilleri on behalf of JRS, Maria Pisani for the Integra Foundation and Neil Falzon for the aditus foundation, penned the joint letter, explaining the plight of the migrants who were being accommodated aboard the pleasure craft ever since they were rescued in Malta’s SAR zone between 28 April and 6 May.

The migrants were transferred from the private and Armed Forces of Malta vessels involved in the rescue to the chartered vessels, and have remained there since the beginning of May, say the organisations. 

The NGOs expressed “serious and urgent concern at the treatment of these men,” pointing out that many have been out at sea for over two weeks, besides the time spent at sea before their rescue. 

Living conditions aboard the vessels must be extremely challenging, say the NGOs, as these are boats generally used for parties or for tours of Malta’s coast. “The vessels usually sail under a Commercial Vessel Certificate, which allows them to sail within three nautical miles from land and not more than three nautical miles from a place of refuge, in favourable weather conditions. They are not equipped to host people for long periods of time. We have no information as to whether any assessments have been conducted to identify vulnerable persons or unaccompanied minors, although we are aware that 18 women and children were brought ashore to Malta,” reads the letter. 

Those on board have no access to lawyers, supporting organisations, interpreters or UNHCR, point out the letter’s signatories, say the organisations. “From what we can understand, they have not been provided information as to their legal situation and related rights. In particular, we sincerely doubt that the right or possibility to seek asylum has been explained to them, as it is clear that Malta’s intentions are for them not to reach Maltese territory,” they said.

The NGOs underlined the irony of Malta’s request for funding from the European Union to cover the costs of the vessels out at sea. “On the one hand – Malta is treating the persons on board the vessels as if they were wholly outside the protection afforded by national, European and international law whilst simultaneously seeking assistance from European Union to keep this situation afloat,” they said. 

“It is clear that Malta’s actions sufficiently affect the interests of the European Union and are being carried out in pursuance of EU external border control,” added the NGOs, emphasising that the notion of fundamental rights does not end at the EU’s external borders. 

Whilst appreciating the challenges faced by Malta in coping with the arrival by sea of asylum seekers, the NGOs nonetheless stressed that Malta’s difficulties did not justify disregard for its human rights obligations. 


 

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