NGO claims Malta refusing to allow rescue vessel to receive food and water

The Maltese government said that it was not the competent authority given that the rescue had taken place within the Libyan search and rescue region 

The migrants were rescued by the Eleonore yesterday
The migrants were rescued by the Eleonore yesterday

Malta has turned down a request from a migrant rescue vessel for the disembarkation of some 100 rescued migrants.  

A spokesperson for the NGO said that the ship had made two requests to enter Malta but both had been refused. A government spokesperson told MaltaToday that it was not the competent authority to deal with this case. 

The migrants were rescued by the ship Eleonore, which is operated by the German NGO Lifeline, and captained by Claus-Peter Reisch, who was earlier this year fined by a Maltese court in relation to a similar incident last summer.

Reisch said in a tweet on Tuesday evening that in addition to refusing the ship to enter its ports, the Maltese authorities had also denied the ship permission to restock food and water.

A government spokesperson said that the vessel was free to receive supplies outside territorial waters if it wished to do so.

The NGO said that Transport Malta had denied an offshore supply or crew change, despite the Eleonore still being 10 nautical miles from Maltese territorial waters.

The migrants were rescued from a rubber dinghy that was rapidly deflating, the NGO said.

“Yesterday, the vessel Eleonore saved around 100 people in the Mediterranean Sea. The rubber boat was already deflating when the RHIB-crew arrived. The so-called Libyan Coastguard tried to intervene in the rescue. Eleonore is now heading north,” the NGO said in a tweet.

In a subsequent tweet, the NGO said that Reisch had brought the migrants on board up to speed on their current situation. It said that the ship was currently some 38 nautical miles from Malta and would soon reach Maltese territorial waters.

The 100 rescued migrants are all male and include 30 minors, 15 of whom are unaccompanied.

The NGO has also requested assistance from the EU, through migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

In its letter, the NGO said it recognized the historical contribution of frontline EU Member States providing safety for vulnerable people fleeing war in Libya, where defenseless civilians are increasingly targeted.

“However, we are not in a position to manage a prolonged stand-off and, in order not to unduly burden the same frontline EU Member States, we as or your urgent diplomatic intervention to disembark our guests,” the crew said.

“As a German NGO operating a German vessel, we are in contact with our flag-state to encourage a swift and humane solution for the 101 people on board, based on EU solidarity and responsibility-sharing.

“Our overwhelming priority is their wellbeing and we will consider every course of action available to protect our guests.

Sources who spoke to MaltaToday said that the country’s reception was not in a position to receive the rescued people, having seen over 500 people disembarked in Malta since Friday.

These included 356 rescued migrants who were rescued by the Ocean Viking and transferred onto AFM patrol boats after having been stranded at sea for almost three weeks.

More than 160 migrants were rescued by the AFM in two separate operations yesterday.

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