[WATCH] Updated | Malta providing humanitarian supplies to Lifeline, diplomatic talks underway

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that Malta does not have any obligations towards rescue vessel MV Lifeline, in the wake of yet another diplomatic standoff between Malta and Italy • Diplomatic sources say talks involving Spain, Italy, France, and Malta are ongoing

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that despite the fact that the boat is currently within the Maltese rescue zone, Malta does not have any obligations towards it
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that despite the fact that the boat is currently within the Maltese rescue zone, Malta does not have any obligations towards it


Talks involving Spain, Italy, France, and Malta are currently underway in order to solve the problem of the MV Lifeline rescue vessel currently stranded in the high seas, diplomatic sources said.

A likely outcome is that the migrants on board will be split among the four countries.

Malta will be evacuating one person from the MV Lifeline rescue vessel and has provided humanitarian supplies, despite the fact that Malta does not have any obligations to do so, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

But a government spokesperson told this newspaper that the captain of the vessel refused the medical evacuation, saying that no assistance was needed. In the meantime, the humanitarian supplies were delivered and accepted.

Read also: Malta and Italy in war of words as migrant vessel 'loiters' in international waters



In a recorded interview set to air on Sunday, Muscat said that despite the fact that the boat is currently within the Maltese rescue zone, Malta does not have any obligations towards it. “We are not involved in this issue, despite the fact that the vessel is within our rescue zone,” he said.

The Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) are conducting a medical evacuation from the vessel after receiving a request to medically assist someone on board, a statement from the Home Affairs Ministry read. "The AFM is also providing humanitarian supplies to the vessel. Malta will always act in accordance to all its obligations according to applicable conventions." The medevac has since been rejected.

Malta cannot give sailing instructions to the vessel, Muscat said, as the only country which can do so is the one in which the boat is registered.

This is where another problem comes in, as although the boat claims to be registered in Holland, the Dutch authorities are refusing to assume responsibility, Muscat said.

Dutch authorities said that the boat is registered as a ‘pleasure boat’, and are therefore denying responsibility for it, Muscat explained. “Maritime law is clear when it states that the flag state in which the boat is registered has the right to order it not to keep ‘loitering.’”

According to the Dutch authorities, MV Lifeline is using an International Certificate for Pleasure Craft and although it has a Dutch document, it is not sailing under the country’s flag, a spokesperson for the government said on Friday.

The government will be seeking legal advice on a country’s obligations tied to the boat’s certificate, Muscat said, adding that the situation is an eye-opener to the “unacceptable” fact that some of these rescue boats are not registered properly.

Malta had initially said that the MV Lifeline, which is currently carrying 239 migrants, had breached its obligations to abide by instructions given to it by competent search and rescue authorities.

Muscat said that the boat did not follow instructions from the Italian and Libyan authorities when it began sailing towards Italy. “The rescue, which happened in the Libyan rescue zone, was being coordinated by the Italian authorities and later on by the Libyan authorities. The plan was for the rescue to take place by the Libyan coast guard – which the EU spends millions on, in terms of training and resources. But the boat did not following these instructions,” he said, adding that the next mistake was when Italy ordered the boat to sail towards Malta.

The ship’s passengers were rescued by the NGO in Libya's search and rescue area after they were spotted in two overcrowded rubber boats. Despite being told to wait for the assistance of Libya's coast guard, the NGO decided to rescue them because had they not they would have been returned to Libya.

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