[WATCH] Angelina Jolie speaks to survivors of the harrowing Lampedusa shipwreck

UNCHR goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie meets the survivors of the Lampedusa shipwreck

Angelina Jolie and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres during a Malta visit
Angelina Jolie and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres during a Malta visit

The UNCHR said that it was deeply concerned about the loss of life, injury, trauma and serious human rights violations affecting migrants, asylum seekers and refugees traveling by sea, warning that the time-honoured tradition of rescue at sea enshrined in international law was in jeopardy.

"Important conventions establish the obligation of a ship's captain to render assistance to people in distress at sea and of States to coordinate and cooperate to deliver those rescued at sea to a place of safety within a reasonable time. These obligations apply regardless of the migration status of the persons in distress at sea," the UNCHR said.

A video showcasing goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie's visit to Malta highlighted the harrowing experience of survivors of the 2013 Lampedusa shipwreck, among them the man who made the first distress call to the Rome Rescue Coordination Centre.

"Much media and public attention has focused on the irregular or criminal nature of this maritime migration. We wish to stress that the people undertaking these journeys are not criminals. Those who exploit their need for protection or hope for a better future, putting lives at risk and violating human rights for profit, are the criminals," UNHCR said.

The Information and Data Protection Commissioner (IDPC) has upheld a refusal by the Armed Forces of Malta to release a detailed chronology of events relating to the rescue of over 200 migrants at sea on 11 October 2013 – in which some 400 asylum seekers and refugees lost their lives in the tragic Lampedusa sinking. MaltaToday made a freedom of information request to have the information release.

The AFM refused the request on 30 December 2013, and again on 13 January 2014.

Prima facie evidence exists of some form of delay between the rescue call made at 12:39pm on 11 October, and the eventual safety mission launched at 3pm.

In his decision, Commissioner Saviour Cachia said that the information requested involved documents which, if disclosed could “to a great extent, affect Malta’s national security and defence and its international relations, particularly Italy.”

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