Sea-Watch calls on government to end ‘politically motivated blockade’

The German NGO said Dutch inspectors requsted by Malta had officially confirmed that the Sea-Watch 3 meets all conditions of the Dutch flag state

Last week the crews of NGO vessels blocked in Malta held a demonstration demanding they be allowed to leave port
Last week the crews of NGO vessels blocked in Malta held a demonstration demanding they be allowed to leave port

The German NGO Sea Watch has again called on the Maltese government to stop endangering human lives by ending what it described as a “politically motivated blockage”.

The Sea-Watch 3, as well as the Seefuchs and the Lifeline are currently being prevented from leaving Maltese ports after it was discovered that the Lifeline had been carrying out rescue missions in the Mediterranean without having the necessary paper work in order.

On Thursday, another humanitarian vessel, the Aquarius, left Malta, after it was allowed to disembark 141 rescued migrants following a four-day standoff with other Mediterranean states.

“While the Aquarius, operated by SOS Mediterranee and Médecins Sans Frontières, was able to leave the port of Valletta yesterday after a successful disembarkation of rescued people, the rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 has been prevented from sailing for 51 days, despite the fact that all conditions of the flag state are fulfilled and the necessary registrations are available,” the NGO said in a statement.

It said that though it was positive that at least one vessel was allowed to leave Malta, Sea-Watch remained concerned about the “systematic crackdown” on the civil rescue fleet as a whole.

“Even if all rescue NGOs were operational, a scenario that currently seems unlikely, search and rescue capacity would remain at an alarming low due to withdrawal of European naval missions and Italian refusal of responsibility in maritime rescue coordination in the area,” Sea-Watch said.

Dutch inspectors confirmed paperwork is in order

The NGO said that Dutch inspectors requested by Malta in July had officially confirmed that the Sea-Watch 3 meets all the conditions of the Dutch flag state and that the registrations were available. It added that to date, the Maltese authorities have not yet informed Sea-Watch of the requirements that must be met before it can leave port.

Pia Klemp, the captain of the Sea-Watch 3 accused the government of “inventing nebulous conditions that are not covered by any international law or regulation from the flag state.

"The Maltese government is inventing nebulous conditions that are not covered by any international law or regulation from the flag state that has already given “While the civil rescue at sea is confronted with absurd accusations, the Maltese Government, with the backing of the European Union, is not concerned about law and order,” Klemp said. “This is a political campaign at the expense of people in distress."

Johannes Bayer, a board member of Sea-Watch, pushed back against claims that an agreement between European states on the distribution of the migrants on board the Aquarius was “a concrete example of European leadership and solidarity”.

“This is cynical and unworthy of being labeled a success when every refugee is haggled over and at the same time rescue ships ready for action are prevented from saving people from drowning,” Bayer said.

Sea-Watch said that since the “civilian rescue ship blockade” at least 261 people had lost their lives, adding that the number of unreported cases is likely to be significantly higher.

Bayer added that the “blockade” not only meant more deaths in the Mediterranean, but also served to get rid of witnesses of human rights violations committed by the “so-called” Libyan coast guard.

Bayer said that the fact that the reconnaissance aircraft, the Moonbird, had also been grounded confirmed this assumption.

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