Migrants rescued in Maltese SAR have been refused port entry in Malta, Italy and Tunisia according to NGO that says rescued people are now stranded at sea
Malta and Italy have been accused of refusing to give safe harbour to 40 migrants rescued by a supply ship inside the Maltese search and rescue region.
The NGO WatchTheMed said it had collected information that strongly suggests that a boat carrying 40 migrants from several African countries seeking protection in Europe, was “illegally transferred into Tunisian territorial waters” after having reached international waters and the Maltese SAR zone.
Among the group are eight women, two of whom are pregnant, the NGO, which runs an ‘alarm phone’ for distress calls, said.
The migrants were rescued from a wooden boat that left from Libya, by the Tunisian-flagged supply vessel Sarost 5 on Friday 13 July, north of the oil platform Astrat in the Maltese SAR.
“MRCC Tunis, as well as the crew of the supply vessel, confirmed the position of the migrant boat in the Maltese SAR zone,” the NGO said. “Both Malta and Italy denied the supply vessel their permission to disembark the migrants in Maltese and Italian harbours.”
A comment from the Maltese army has been requested. Malta has always maintained that its responsibility is to coordinate rescues in its SAR and that disembarkation should happen in the closest, safest port.
“The migrants are still in limbo. After the rescue, they were provided with some food and brought to the oil platform. Later, the supply vessel took the course on Sfax/Tunisia to disembark the people there. The authorities of Sfax, however, refused to allow them to disembark. They were then told to disembark in Zarzis/Tunisia. But since Monday 16 July, at 1 am, they are also blocked from entering the port there,” the NGO said.
“We demand that the people are safe and immediately brought to a safe harbour in Europe. We demand that European coastguards take responsibility for coordinating search and rescue operations of boats in situations of distress in their SAR zones, as legally mandated. We demand a long-term solution that allows those in distress at sea to be swiftly disembarked in European harbours, rather than the case-by-case evaluations that we see currently, which unnecessarily prolong the suffering of those rescued. We also declare our solidarity with the crews of non-governmental and commercial vessels that carry out vital search and rescue operations despite the obstacles that European governments create,” the NGO said.
TunisianMonitorOnline (Malta Today)