Malta’s authorities have left 27 people stranded outside Maltese waters for a record breaking 22 days, in what is being described as the “longest standoff in history”.
Speaking on social media, German NGO Sea Watch said that merchant vessel named ‘Etienne’ had rescued the 27 asylum seekers inside Malta’s search and rescue zone under the direction of Maltese authorities.
“Since then, Malta has been denying them to enter the port. The Etienne has thus broken a sad record: the longest stand-off in the history of search and rescue activities in the Mediterranean,” the NGO said.
Sea-Watch is carrying a large number of asylum seekers themselves, with 201 irregular migrants currently on board their vessel.
In more damning claims, the NGO claimed that Malta had regularly broken EU laws and treaties when it came to asylum seekers, referencing a recent operation which saw fishing boats “push-back” migrant vessels to Libya.
“Maltese authorities have repeatedly proven that they are completely shameless about breaking international law and EU law.”
“This has been done by for example pushing people by private fishing boats back to Libya. They have dumped people on offshore prison ships for weeks on end during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the NGO said.
According to the UN’s refugee agency in Malta, a total of 1,699 people were rescued at sea and disembarked in the country throughout the first six months of 2020. This translates to a 33% increase in arrivals when comparing figures of the same period last year, despite Malta’s closure of ports from April to June to fight COVID-19.