Subject line: Distress Case in Maltese SAR, at 34°22’N, 011°52’E, 13/07/2018 – Do not Deny your Responsibility
Six days ago, a boat carrying 40 people in distress, including one pregnant woman, who sought asylum and protection in Europe had entered the Maltese Search and Rescue (SAR) zone for which you are responsible. The fact that the migrant boat had reached your SAR zone is documented and was confirmed by MRCC Tunis and the crew of the Sarost V, the vessel that conducted the rescue operation. Given that you initially instructed a supply vessel to conduct a rescue operation further indicates that you were well aware of your responsibility for the boat in distress. However, after rescue, you subsequently denied disembarkation in Malta and thereby forced the Sarost V to seek temporary shelter for the people on an oil platform at sea. Since then, the people are in limbo on the Sarost V, not allowed to seek asylum in Malta or Italy and not allowed into a Tunisian harbour.
You have tried to quietly hand over responsibility to the Tunisian authorities, thereby breaching your duty to provide a safe harbour for the rescued and their rescuers, be it in Malta or somewhere else in Europe. As you must have realised by now, this strategy of evasion has failed, and a myriad of actors are monitoring whether and how you react to this situation.
We hereby call you to take on your legally mandated responsibility and coordinate the arrival of the distressed people in a European harbour. The crew of the Sarost V has shown courage and responsibility but they cannot bear this burdensome situation any longer.
The people have now been at sea for at least one week – it is cruel and inhumane to prologue their suffering further, simply to score political points.