NGOs seek answers on fate of 100 missing migrants

Human rights and humanitarian organisations have called on Malta to ensure that all efforts are made to ensure the safety of 110 missing persons at sea

A photo of one of the boats, published on Twitter by Sea Watch
A photo of one of the boats, published on Twitter by Sea Watch

Questions have been raised by 35 NGOs over the fate of at least 100 men, women, and children found in distress at sea over the weekend in the wake of the authorities' silence.

“We know that a ship was ready to rescue them but was prevented from doing so by Malta. Now, we are unable to say where they are, if they have been pushed back to Libya or even if they are alive,” the group of NGOs said in a statement on Tuesday.

The organisations said it was “unacceptable” for Malta to relinquishes its duty to coordinate the rescue of persons in distress in its search and rescue zone.

They also pointed out that it was “undemocratic and reprehensible” for Malta to have repeatedly refused to provide information on its decisions and actions.

Humanitarian NGOs reported on Saturday that three dinghies carrying 60, 100 and 110 people, respectively, were adrift in the Maltese search and rescue region. 

They were spotted by Sea Watch’s Moonbird, a civilian monitoring aircraft.

Alarm Phone and Sea Watch claimed the government was "actively hindering the rescue of the people, instead of coordinating it".

On Monday, the Armed Forces of Malta denied leaving boats carrying migrants adrift in the Maltese search and rescue area. But in a one-sentence reply, the army gave no details on ongoing operations or the fate of the 110 migrants.

The organisations reiterated that every single life matters and that Malta’s migration concerns in no way justify abandoning people in distress at sea.

“We further stress that the Maltese authorities are accountable for their decisions and actions and that withholding information in an attempt to circumvent these obligations is not in line with core democratic values,” the NGO said.

Therefore, the organisations urged Malta to ensure that all efforts are made to secure the lives of the 110 missing persons. They have also urged Malta to publish all information regarding this particular incident and to commit to a spirit of “transparency and accountability for future incidents.”