Sea-Eye files court complaint over migrant rescue in Maltese search and rescue zone

Migrant rescue zone insists Malta is responsible for rescue in its search and rescue zone, and has filed a court action on the island’s refusal to take in 13 rescued migrants

The Alan Kurdi
The Alan Kurdi

German rescue organisation Sea-Eye has said that it has filed a complaint in the Maltese courts over Malta’s refusal to take in rescued migrants from its own search and rescue zone.

Sea-Eye said its ship Alan Kurdi had taken 13 migrants from an overloaded wooden boat last Saturday in Malta’s SAR zone.

“Malta refuses to take responsibility for the coordination efforts and refers to Germany... for five days, Malta has been refusing to overtake responsibility for the coordination of the rescue operation, although the Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre never denied that the event happened in the Maltese SAR zone,” Sea-Eye says.

“Sea-Eye has now decided to file a complaint before a Maltese court to legally determine the jurisdiction of the Maltese rescue coordination office.”

Sea-Eye claim that on Thursday afternoon, Malta had agreed to an evacuation and has sent coordinates for a rendezvous. The government has said it will carry out a medical evacuation for two persons.

Malta’s official policy is to take in rescued people from sea only when the island is the nearest port of call to the point of rescue. Claims that Malta is also responsible for rescues inside its vast search and rescue zone are contested inside international fora on the law of the sea.

In a video Sea-Eye posted on Twitter, the NGO said the Maltese government had outright rejected responsibility for the rescued migrants.

Italy is also maintaining the validity of the ‘Salvini decree’ despite a new centre-left coalition. “Apparently, the new government too maintains a tough stance against civil rescue efforts,” Sea-Eye said.

The organisation said that the mood of the 13 rescued people onboard, including eight minors, was becoming increasingly worse. “They sleep in on deck with bad weather in a container. Since Tuesday, two people have been suffering from anxiety attacks and thus cause increasing stress symptoms among the others.”

Sea-Eye said the Alan Kurdi crew had tried to dissuade the migrants from suicidal thoughts as the latter spoke about attempting to swim to shore and risking their lives in the process. “We put appropriate safety measures in place and have guards on deck 24 hours. But we have reached a truly dangerous point and I worry greatly,” mission leader Jan Ribbeck said.

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