Malta Refugee Council demands inquiry into tragic death of young Loujin

The four-year-old Syrian refugee died of thirst at sea in Malta’s search and rescue zone

Loujin Ahmed Nasif
Loujin Ahmed Nasif

The Malta Refugee Council is demanding an official inquiry into death of Loujin Ahmed Nasif, the four-year-old Syrian refugee that died of thirst at sea in Malta’s search and rescue zone.

In a statement on Saturday the Council said they expected the authorities to clarify and publish the exact version of events and that anyone found responsible for the girl’s death be brought to justice.

Louijin, who was accompanied by her mother and one-year-old sister, was part of a group of more than 60 Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian migrants on board a wooden fishing vessel that set sail from Lebanon to Italy at the end of last August. On 2 September the migrants started running out of basic provisions and as the fishing boat suffered a leak, they started sending distress signals.

After spending days in distress in Malta’s Malta’s search and rescue zone close to Crete, 61 migrants disembarked in Crete. Louijin died whilst being airlifted to a hospital after she was found unconscious during the rescue operation. Her last words were “Mother, I’m thirsty”.

The Council said that publicly available information on this tragic death of Louijin was conflicting. It said that one version claimed Malta was alerted to the distress situation on 3 September but no concrete action was taken to save the migrants, and another claimed Malta was informed on 6 September and every step was taken to protect all lives, including that of Loujin.

Malta's SAR stretches across a vast area in the central Mediterranean from Tunisia to Crete. It is Malta's responsibility to coordinate rescue efforts in this zone by directing ships that are close by to intervene and disembark the rescued people in the closest, safest port.

“The version everyone must agree on is that Loujin did not survive the ordeal, dying of thirst in her mother’s arms. In situations where a person dies under a State’s watch – such as in prison, in hospital or in a police station – we normally expect the authorities to investigate and clarify the circumstances that led to the persons’ death,” the Council said.

It stated that Malta has a legal responsibility to coordinate the rescue of all persons found to be in distress in its Search and Rescue Zone.

On Facebook President Emeritus Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca expressed her disappointment that Malta denied assistance to this group of migrants, saying that Louijin’s photo represented the injustice against those who had a right to live in peace.

On Friday activists joined Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Coleiro Preca for a vigil organised by Moviment Graffitti in memory of Loujin and others who died at sea.

The Archbishop said the young girl’s words reminded him of Christ's last words on the Cross before his death.

“Justice demands that Loujins’ death be properly explained. Press statements, tweets and similar statements do not live up to democratic standards of accountability and transparency,” concluded the statement by the Malta Refugee Council.

It was signed by aditus foundation, African Media Association (Malta), Blue Door English, Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), KOPIN, Migrants Commission, Migrant Women Association Malta, MOAS, SOS Malta, Spark15 and the Sudanese Community Malta.