EU urges Malta to allow Ethiopian, Eritrean migrants rescued at sea
By Topy Vogel, European News August 6, 2013 The European Commission has warned Malta not to continue blocking a Greek-operated oil tanker after it rescued 102 migrants in distress off the Libyan coast. “It is the humanitarian
By Topy Vogel, European News August 6, 2013
“It is the humanitarian duty of the Maltese authorities to allow these persons to disembark,” Cecilia Malmström, the European commissioner for home affairs, said in a statement today (6 August).
Malta and Italy are quarrelling over who might be in charge of the rescued migrants, which according to the Commission include four pregnant women, an injured woman and a five-month-old baby.
The Maltese authorities said yesterday (5 August) that they had refused entry to a Liberian-registered tanker operated by a Greek firm that had rescued 102 migrants after their rubber dinghy got into trouble in Libyan waters.
The Italian search and rescue centre had instructed the tanker to pick up the migrants and to return to Libya, according to the Italian authorities. But the ship’s captain continued the journey to Malta, where his vessel was blocked just outside territorial waters by the Maltese navy.
The ship’s operator denies that there was an order to return to Libya and says that several of the rescued migrants, thought to be from Ethiopia and Eritrea, need urgent medical attention amid worsening conditions on the tanker.
“Any dispute about the responsible search and rescue authority, including the involvement of the Italian and Libyan authorities, as well as the right place of disembarkation does not help the persons in immediate need,” Malmström said in her statement. “These issues should be clarified at a later stage.”
She said: “At this point in time, it is the humanitarian duty of the Maltese authorities to allow these persons to disembark. Sending the ship back to Libya would be contrary to international law. The master of the ship has dispatched an urgent medical request as the injured woman needs immediate hospitalisation. The Commission therefore urges Malta to let these persons disembark as soon as possible.”
Malta says it faces an emergency after some 1,000 migrants arrived last month.