‘Save your hypocritical tweets’: Sea-Watch takes legal action against government

The humanitarian NGO said it filed a ‘legal protest’ against the government for its blockade of rescue assets

Sea Watch said that the government was preventing the Moonbird from operating to hide the consequences of its blockade of rescue vessels
Sea Watch said that the government was preventing the Moonbird from operating to hide the consequences of its blockade of rescue vessels

The humanitarian NGO Sea-Watch has filed a ‘legal protest’ over the Malta’s refusal to allow its reconnaissance aircraft, the Moonbird, from operating.

It said that Malta remained “short on a legal justification for this obstruction”, adding that months of negotiations had not resulted in a breakthrough.                        

“We have kept still and tried to reach an agreement on diplomatic ways for long enough. The case of Moonbird shows that Malta not only shuts off sea rescue but also wants to hide the disastrous consequences of this blockade from the eyes of the world,” Sea-Watch board member Johannes Bayer said in a statement issued by the NGO. “One cannot turn a blind eye and pretend it is not happening more actively, than Joseph Muscat is right now.”

The NGO said that the situation in Libya had further deteriorated in the last few weeks due to “new armed clashes”.

It said that while Prime Minister Joseph Muscat “claims apprehension”, he has continued to block ships in Maltese harbours, “thereby obstructing the last escape route for the local population and refugees caught in the crossfire”.

In a tweet on 1 September, Muscat said that Malta was following the situation in Tripoli with deep apprehension, while calling on the international community not to turn a blind eye and pretend its not happening.

The NGO said that since Muscat’s tweet, Tripoli had declared a state of emergency, with the situation seeing thousands of civilians, refuges and migrants caught in between various militias.

“Muscat talks of not looing away and illegally impedes the deployment of civilian rescue assets and of the reconnaissance aircraft Moonbird,” Bayer said. “While diplomats are evacuated by sea, thousands fleeing war and violence are deserted by the European Union again.”

Bayer said that “those that speak of human rights, should act as well”. 

The NGO said that according to media reports, the “so-called Libyan coast guard” has collapsed as a result of the renewed conflicts.

It said that with nearly all civilian rescue assets detained in various ports, there was no sea rescue whatsoever in the central Mediterranean. 

“While rival militias wage war against each other for every meter of land, without any regard for residential areas or refugee detention centers, European states – with Malta leading the way – only act to efficiently hinder civilian rescue efforts. Joseph Muscat should save his hypocritical tweets when he is not ready to act accordingly.” Bayer said.