Malta refuses Alan Kurdi crew permission to disembark on island

Maltese government gives rescue charity short shrift after saving 64 lives at sea by refusing them persmission to disembark in Malta

An AFM soldier assists the transhipment of people rescued at sea by the Sea-Eye ship Alan Kurdi
An AFM soldier assists the transhipment of people rescued at sea by the Sea-Eye ship Alan Kurdi

On Sunday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat spoke of the hypocrisy of right-wing pro-lifers who expressed disdain for human lives rescued at sea.

Now it is his government that is being accused of cynicism, after Malta refused to allow the crew members of rescue charity Sea-Eye disembark the ‘Alan Kurdi’. 

The boat was involved in the rescue of 64 men, women and children fleeing persecution and the war in Libya, but had to endure an 10-day stand-off after both Malta and Italy refused to take in the asylum seekers. 

The migrants were rescued in Libyan territorial waters. France has now agreed to resettle the migrants. 

Only the ‘Alan Kurdi’ volunteer crew was allowed to leave the ship in Malta. 

Malta had already refused the ‘Alan Kurdi’ to have its crew exchange from the island back in January. 

“We cannot force our crew members ashore. We condemn the abuse of state power and the illegal restriction of our crew members’ freedom, who risked their own health to save lives,” Sea-Eye chairman Gorden Isler said. 

“We saw violations of human rights to freedom, physical integrity and the protection of the family. We will intensively examine which legal instruments are available to us. No politician stands above the law,” Isler said.   

The ‘Alan Kurdi’ is now heading for Spain, but Sea-Eye says the boat must be taken to a drydock for repairs. “This will cost a lot of money. At the moment the donations are not enough,” Isler said, fearing the ship will not be in action soon enough, as June approaches, when more boat departures take place from Libya. 

“There is an imminent war in Libya. Soon even Libyans could get on rubber dinghies to get to safety in Europe. A humanitarian disaster and further devastating losses of human lives are to be expected,” Isler said. 

Muscat has defended his government’s position during the stand-off, insisting that Malta could not face the challenge posed by migration alone. 

He said that while he could understand the NGO’s decision not to return to Libya, both Tunisia and Italy were safe and closer to the rescue than Malta. 

Italy has kept its ports close to rescue ships. 

Muscat said that Malta could have chosen to let the vessel in, “but this would have set the country up for a summer in which NGO vessels brought all rescued migrants to Malta expecting to be let in.”