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Hundreds Gather By Valletta Harbour In Vigil For Drowned Asylum Seekers

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Some 200 people have gathered at Marsamxett Harbour in a vigil for the asylum seekers who recently drowned at sea while crossing from Libya to Europe.

The protestors laid candles by the sea in what is both a sign of solidarity with the asylum seekers and an act of pressure on the authorities to enact more migrant-friendly policies.

Some of them also held slogans with pictures of drowned babies and accusations that the Maltese government is allowing people to drown.

Former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi was also present.

“Their lives mattered to their loved ones, and they matter to us,” the Facebook event page reads. “Respect towards life and the innate dignity of each and every human being needs to remain central in political disputes and political discourse, in the search of solutions for this human tragedy.”

“This ongoing tragedy must never be normalized. Death should not be an accepted side effect of seeking asylum. Europe must find solutions that honour life and not facilitate death. We know that there is no one solution, but options for seeking asylum without loss of life must be found.”

The vigil comes as Malta joined Italy in closing off its ports to migrant search and rescue ships and stopped a small aircraft used to search for migrant boats in the Mediterranean from operating out of the island.

This decision was criticised by local human rights NGOs and by Archbishop Charles Scicluna, who warned that it will result in more people drowning while trying to cross to Europe. They also warned against leaving rescue operations in the hands of the Libyan coastguard, noting that migrants in the North African country routinely experience rape, torture and ill-treatment, are detained in miserable conditions, and have recently also been sold off in slave markets.

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