NGOs refute that migrant rescue groups are breaching international law

A joint statement by Italian and Maltese NGOs insisted that humanitarian and human rights obligations should take precedence over political considerations • The Democratic Party ‘welcomes and supports’ Malta’s move to promote burden sharing

Italian and Maltese NGOs urged all actors to immediately secure the disembarkation of 230 people
Italian and Maltese NGOs urged all actors to immediately secure the disembarkation of 230 people

NGOs rescuing migrants are not violating international laws, a joint statement by Italian and Maltese NGOs read, explaining that such groups rely on countries to fulfil their obligations.

“We are keen to clarify that NGOs rescuing persons in distress are not violating international norms, but rely on States to fulfill their obligations by indicating a safe port for prompt disembarkation of all rescued persons.”

The NGOs said they were concerned by the announcement made by the Italian and Maltese authorities, who said they will be sanctioning the captain of the Lifeline rescue ship. “Disembarkation in unsafe places, such as Libya, would violate international law and is therefore not a valid option.”

The statement said that it is imperative that coastal states coordinate their efforts to ensure a “prompt disembarkation” in a safe place. “This is a clear obligation under international law.”

It further urged all actors involved to immediately secure the disembarkation of the 230 migrants on the Lifeline rescue vessel.

Read more: Lifeline standoff: Ship allowed to enter Maltese waters to shelter from bad weather

“Whilst we appreciate the need to clarify legal responsibilities, we emphasise that the protection of life and human dignity should remain the topmost priority.”

The statement was issued by auditus foundation, African Association Malta, Associazione ONG Italiane (AOI), CONCORD Italia, Coordinamento Italiano NGO Internazionali (CINI), COSPE Onlus, Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service Malta, Kopin, LIBICO, Link 2007, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrant Women Association Malta, Moviment Graffitti, People for Change Foundation, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM), SOS Malta, SKOP, Terre des Hommes - Italy.

“As Italian and Maltese civil society organisations, we reiterate that political disputes over migration responsibilities cannot be resolved by violating international law and placing people’s lives and wellbeing at risk,” it read, adding that humanitarian and human rights obligations should trump political considerations.

“We therefore urge the forthcoming European Council meeting to urgently identify and implement much needed solutions to the situation in the Mediterranean, inspired by the principle of European solidarity and fully in line with the obligations related to the protection of human rights.”

PD express their support for government’s stand

Malta, the smallest EU member state, has been an exemplary giant to much bigger nations in its initiatives and in following the EU’s non-binding guidelines, the Democratic Party (PD) said in a statement.

“PD augurs that the Maltese government continues to manage the lifeline case and other challenges with good sense, compassion, diplomacy and observance to international law, underlining that Malta cannot look the other way, especially when the lives of vulnerable migrants including children and pregnant women are at risk,” the statement read.

Malta is taking its proportionate share which would amount to two migrants, the PD said, welcoming and supporting Malta’s move to promote burden sharing.