NGOs call on Malta not to look the other way and to accept stranded migrants

‘As Malta and the rest of Europe celebrate Christmas, 32 men, women and children, have been stranded out at sea for days, waiting for a country to relent and take them in’

The migrants on board the Sea Watch 3 have been stranded at sea for seven days
The migrants on board the Sea Watch 3 have been stranded at sea for seven days

A group of NGO’s have appealed to the government to step up and offer refuge to a group of 32 migrants that were rescued from the Mediterranean last week and who remain stranded at sea.

Last week, the Sea-Watch 3 rescued a group of migrants, including a number of children, but despite repeated requests, has not been granted clearance to disembark the passengers at a safe port.

“As Malta and the rest of Europe celebrate Christmas, 32, men, women and children, have been stranded out at sea for days waiting for a country to relent and take them in,’ the NGOs said.

They said that “the tragic truth” was that not a single member state had stepped up and offered refuge. “This is beyond regrettable, it is a travesty of humanity.” 

The NGOs urged the government to again lead by example and to allow the people on board the Sea-Watch 3 to disembark in Malta, irrespective of whether or not the country is legally responsible to do so.

Malta, they said, like other European states, has a legal obligation to offer refuge to people fleeing persecution.

“The standard argument these days is that migrants rescued at sea should be returned to Libya, even if we know that they will be imprisoned in horrible conditions, tortured, raped, or sold as slaves,” the NGOs stressed.

They added that this was a flagrant violation of the “freely assumed commitment” to ensure that no one is returned to a country where their safety is not guaranteed.

“Arguing that we are somehow absolved of the responsibility for their fate, because Malta is not intervening directly is noting short of facile, as responsibility is not only legal, it is also moral and ethical.”

The NGOs said that it was cynical for laws enacted to preserve life and protect human dignity to justify a refusal to provide a safe haven to people felling persecution. “In so doing, we violate the spirit of the law, under the pretence of upholding its letter.”

READ MORE: Christmas at sea: 344 people rescued with no safe port as NGO fears deterioration in weather

The statement was issued in the name of the following NGOs: aditus, African Media Association, Allied Rainbow Communities, Christian Life Community Malta, Cross Culture International Foundation, Department for Inclusion and Access to Learning, Integra Foundation, JRS Malta, Kummissjoni Gustizzja u Paci, Malta Emigrants Commission Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement, People for Change Foundation, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta, Solidarity with Migrant Group, SOS Malta, Spark 15, The Critical Institute and the Women’s Rights Foundation.  

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