The Council of Europe is calling for “immediate action needed to disembark migrants held on ships off Malta’s coast”. Italy considers charges against Malta for “aiding illegal migration” while an inquiry cleared Maltese Prime Minister and other officials of homicide in relation to the deaths of five migrants.
Over 400 people rescued in the Maltese SAR zone over the last three weeks continue being held in tourist vessels chartered by the Maltese government and moored outside of Maltese territorial waters. The Maltese government is reportedly waiting for other EU member states to agree to relocate them. Aljazeera reports that, so far, only France has pledged to take some of them.
In a statement, Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, urges Malta to grant monitoring bodies and agencies access to the ships off its coast and requests concrete actions to ensure that the current situation is ended as soon as possible and not repeated. The Commissioner is also concerned that the confinement of those rescued on the ships, as well as the lack of remedies against this measure and its indefinite duration, may not be compliant with the right to liberty of those on board, as guaranteed by Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights. She further urges Malta to ensure that the decision to position the ships just outside territorial waters does not result in those on board being deprived of the opportunity to request international protection.
At the end of May, ECRE Member aditus together with Jesuit Refugee Service Malta and Integra foundation filed three complaints regarding the situation of the people held on the vessels: one with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, one with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and one with the European Commission concerning the breach of fundamental of rights, including the right to liberty, the right to asylum and the right to an effective legal remedy.
The Maltese prime minister Robert Abeloa, Brigadier Jeffery Curmi, and the crew of an Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) patrol boat were cleared of homicide in a local investigation into whether they were responsible for the deaths of at least five people at sea. According to the government the inquiry had also concluded that Malta had met its international obligations. The inquiry was triggered by a police complaint from civil society NGO Repubblika in April about two separate incidents at sea, concerning the death of several people in the course of a push-back operation to Libya and the alleged intentional sabotage of a rubber boat trying to reach Malta.
According to the Guardian the Italian government has confirmed that the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) turned a boat with people fleeing Libya away at gunpoint from Maltese waters, after giving them fuel and the GPS coordinates to reach Italy. The evidence was published by the NGO Alarm Phone. Police in Sicily are investigating and the prosecutor’s office may open an investigation against Malta in the next few days. Maltese officers could reportedly be charged with aiding “illegal immigration”.
Alarm Phone reports that a boat of 75 reached Lampedusa autonomously after they reached out to their distress hotline.
For further information:
- ECRE, Med: Continued Violations Topped with Dodgy Deals, May 2020
- ECRE, Med: New Evidence of Malta’s Deadly Strategies, May 2020
- ECRE,Med: 78 to quarantine on Italian Ship, 163 still Stranded amid Spike in Departures and Depleted Rescue Capacities, May 2020
- ECRE,Med: Hundreds Remain Stranded at Sea as Ports are Still Closed, Solidarity Remains Lacking and Interceptions Continue, May 2020
- ECRE,Med: Former Maltese Official Admits Push-Back while another 62 People are Left Stranded, 08 May 2020
- ECRE,Med: 180 Quarantined on Italian Ship while NGO takes Legal Actions against Maltese Decision-Makers, April 2020
- ECRE,Med: 12 Left to Die and 182 Stranded as EU States Refuse Rescue, April 2020
- ECRE,Med: 150 Stranded at Sea as Malta and Italy Declare Ports “unsafe”, April 2020
- ECRE,Med: IRINI Ships will Not Search but Rescue – Civilian Search and Rescue Vessel Back at Sea, April 2020
- ECRE,Med: EU Naval Arms Embargo Mission Jeopardised Over Migration Concerns, Cyprus Turns Away Syrian Nationals, March 2020
- ECRE,Med: Search and Rescue Operations Under Pressure from COVID-19, Interceptions and Return to Libya Continue, March 2020
- ECRE,Interview: WatchTheMed Alarm Phone: A Response for Rescue and a Call for Change,February 2020
- ECRE,Med: Death Toll Mounting, NGOs Rescue, Returns to Libya Continue,February 2020
- ECRE,Med: People Returned, Rescued and Gone Missing, 20 February 2020
- ECRE,Med: Disembarkations in Italy, Rescues by Malta, Court release NGO Vessel, 14 February 2020
- ECRE,Med: NGOs Rescue Almost 1000 people – Pull-backs to Libya continue, January 2020
- ECRE,Mediterranean: Rescue Operation and Hope for Sophia’s Ships, January 2020
- ECRE,Safe Ports in Italy for 237 People but 1000 Returned to Detention in Libya, January 2020
- ECRE,Appeal Court Clears Lifeline Captain of all Charges – NGOs Continue to Rescue, January 2020
- ECRE,Operation Sophia: Ships Remain Suspended while Support of Libyan ‘Coast Guard’ Continues, September 2019
- ECRE,Last Breath of Operation Sophia Should Push Coalition of the Willing, March 2019
- ECRE,A Contingency Plan for Disembarkation and Relocation, January 2019
- ECRE,Med: Deaths, Returns, Rescues and Hope for Justice, December 2019
- ECRE,EU Praise of Libyan Coast Guard out of Touch with Reality, September 2020
Photo: (CC) mini_malist, February 2019