‘Easter can’t be celebrated while people drown on our doorstep’ – NGOs

Sea Watch

A number of non-governmental organisations have issued a joint statement calling upon Prime Minister Robert Abela to ensure that all persons within Malta’s search and rescue region and therefore are Malta’s responsibility are rescued and that their safety is guaranteed.

In a statement on Sunday, the NGOs underlined that the nation cannot quietly celebrate Easter whilst men, women and children are drowning on our doorstep.

“Saving lives and ensuring their disembarkation at a safe place is a fundamental legal obligation and also a moral imperative that can in no way be negotiated or renounced.”

The statement comes after humanitarian NGO Sea Watch announced that a rubber boat capsized in waters between Malta and Libya with many feared to have lost their lives.  

The statement was signed by aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Association for Justice, Equality and Peace, Blue Door English, The Critical Institute, Cross Culture International Foundation, The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Integra Foundation, Isles of the Left, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), KOPIN, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrant Women Association Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Office of the Dean – Faculty for Social Wellbeing, University of Malta, People for Change Foundation, SOS Malta, Spark15, Sudanese Migrants Association, and Syrian Solidarity in Malta.

The Cabinet has unanimously approved a a decision to declare Malta’s ports as unsafe and therefore no migrant landings will be authorized. The government has also banned NGO boats from disembarking any rescuees in Malta and said that it could not guarantee sea rescue operations due to a limit in resources. Prime Minister Robert Abela defended the decision on Sunday saying that public health was the government’s top concern.

Online petition launched

An online petition has been launched calling on Prime Minister Robert Abela to rescue those at sea. By 7.30pm on Sunday the petition had gathered over 700 signatures.

In the petition reference was made to a boat carrying 47 individuals which is adrift in the Maltese search and rescue region. On board the boat, a mother had appealed to the local authorities to at least ‘save her child’.

“We are writing to implore you to change course and send a Malta Armed Forces vessel to the area in question to save these people, and also others who are in the same predicament and who are all our brothers and sisters, from certain death before it is too late. Our common humanity can tolerate no delay in acting to fulfil this most serious obligation.”

‘Those who have washed their hands of the problem need to should responsibility’

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party said that whoever was responsible for these deaths and found an excuse by closing off ports will have to shoulder responsibility. The Green Party said that this was applicable for Malta but also for Italy. European Member States who obstructed the possibility of finding a long term solution, were also responsible. AD acknowledged that in some countries despite the threat of the far right, some political parties sought to find a European solution to the issue.

In a blog post AD chairman Carmel Cacopardo reiterated that the sea which surrounded the island has turned into a cemetery for those who perished at sea.

Cacopardo acknowledged that there were problems related to the issue of migration which were further exacerbated due to the global pandemic. However, the AD chairperson noted that such circumstances did not waive off the country’s responsibility of its search and rescue region.

“There’s no choice in this. We have a duty. We have a responsibility due to our geographical position in the middle of the Mediterranean sea. At times our geostrategic location meant it gave us competitive advantages, other times such as today, we have responsibilities,” Cacopardo wrote.

“We have no excuse to let them drown.”

“A very happy Easter to Robert Abela” – Cassola

Former AD chairman and Independent Arnold Cassola in a short statement sarcastically wished Prime Minister Robert Abela and his family a “very happy Easter”.

Cassola referred to claims made by Abela during an interview on Partit Laburista’s TV station where the latter said that “we’re experiencing a rise in values.” Cassola noted that at the same time time, Abela “abandoned a boat to its destiny which sank” and many are feared dead.