A German NGO has been forced to step in to save migrants at risk within Malta’s Search and Rescue (SAR) zone after nearby merchant vessels were allegedly instructed to ignore the calls for help.
NGO Sea-Eye is currently on the way to Livorno, Italy, after successfully rescuing 108 migrants in peril.
The organisation said that Italian authorities instructed the Sea-Eye to head straight to Livorno immediately after they contacted two merchant ships in the vicinity that promised to participate in the search.
However, the NGO alleged that the Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre instructed both vessels to continue on their regular course.
While the Norviken then called off the search, the vessel MTM Southport remained on the scene and continued to participate in the search.
🔴 Die SEA-EYE 4 konnte in der Nacht von So auf Mo noch rechtzeitig den Seenotfall in der maltesischen Such- und Rettungszone erreichen & alle 45 Menschen an Bord nehmen. Zuvor hatten sowohl #Italien als auch #Malta aktiv versucht, die Rettung dieser Menschen zu verhindern! 1/3 pic.twitter.com/1VI2ldwzNH
— sea-eye (@seaeyeorg) December 19, 2022
An email from the Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre to the MTM Southport stated there was no distress case and that a rescue of the people would be considered an interception on the high seas by the Maltese authorities.
Sea-Eye claims “this is a systematic approach based on political calculations, which repeatedly costs human lives”.
“The case of the young girl Loujin, who died of thirst in the Maltese Search And Rescue Zone in September, is just one well-known example of the consequences of this deliberate inaction,” it continued.
“We were so relieved that merchant ships responded to this distress call because we were still too far away and small boats like this can capsize quickly. But then to witness that the state actors, who are supposed to save lives, order the ships that wanted to help to turn away is unbelievable,” Sophie Weidenhiller, the SAR coordinator of Sea-Eye.
“I am glad that no one had to die this time, but there are other cases where people die just because states like Malta refuse to help them. This is a scandal, we should all be outraged!”
Photo credit: Sea-Eye
Do you agree with the authorities’ intransigence in the face of mortal danger?