Updated: Italian govt should realize ‘gravity of emergency’; let them disembark – Sassoli

Twitter / Open Arms

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, has called on the Italian Government to allow the Open Arms rescue vessel to disembark the migrants currently on board.

The President explains that his office was in contact with the Open Arms’ Captain, ‘who described conditions on board as scarcely tolerable. The situation has become dramatic,’

He described that it has been two weeks since the vessel was prevented from entering a port of safety. He added that conditions on board were deteriorating, having a dramatic impact on the psychological well-being of those stranded on board.

‘They are now giving up and are inflicting acts of self-harm, while they lose sense of reality. The hygiene conditions on board are worse than ever and it is necessary to allow an immediate disembarkation of those on board.’

Sassoli urged the Italian authorities to take stock of ‘the gravity of the humanitarian emergency on board the vessel and agree to let them enter the port today.’

Act irrespective of your responsibilities

The EP President’s comments come following a joint statement signed by almost a dozen Maltese NGOs is calling on the government to disembark over 350 migrants stranded on rescue vessels to Malta, irrespective of its legal responsibilities.

The statement presented by 23 NGOs including the Aditus Foundation and SOS Malta, calls on the Maltese government to, ‘once more lead by example.’

They stress that the possibility of migrants being returned to Libya, (as a port of safety) and the risks which are entailed is, ‘quite simply unacceptable,’ the statement reads, adding, ‘It is imperative that another solution is found for the rescued migrants.’

Ocean Viking

Their joint statement comes as over 350 men, women and children have been left stranded aboard migrant rescue vessels awaiting clearance EU member states to grant them clearance to disembark migrants at their port.

The joint rescue vessel Ocean Viking, operated by MSF and SOS Mediteranee, is also awaiting confirmation of a safe port. There are over 350 people on board.

Read more:

11 unaccompanied minors on Ocean Viking; NGOs call for EU port of safety

Updated: 170 asylum seekers rescued by Ocean Viking on first mission

Migrants rescued by Ocean Viking in its first search and rescue operation

‘Despite repeated requests to Italy and Malta for a safe port, to date neither Member State has allowed disembarkation and none of the Member States of the EU have stepped in to offer refuge to those on board,’ the statement reads.

A fellow NGO is also awaiting orders for a safe port. The Spanish NGO Open Arms is currently anchored off the coast of Lampedusa with 147 people on board. The NGO was allowed to enter Italian territorial waters after a court in Lazio lifted the Interior Minister’s decree that NGOs would be forbidden from entering Italian waters or disembarking migrants. The vessel still has no confirmed port of safety.  There have been statements that the Spanish government would take over 10% of those on board. This was still subject to negotiations at the EU and member state level.

Read more:

Italian political standoff keeps rescued migrants stranded at sea

Updated: Open Arms migrant vessel calls for medical evacuation

Migrants stay on board Open Arms as Malta refuses disembarkation

Watch: Richard Gere joins Open Arms; Asylum seekers remain stranded at sea

‘Equally objectionable’

The statement also goes on to critique how states have the ability to justify their objection to allowing disembarkation of rescued migrants, despite the clear position of International maritime law.

‘International maritime law is clear: the priority is to save lives and to ensure disembarkation in a place of safety, regardless of who conducted the rescue. Saving lives is therefore a legal obligation, and under no circumstances can it be considered wrong or – at worst – a crime.’

‘The Member States of the European Union, a Union supposedly founded on solidarity and respect for human dignity, have a legal obligation to offer refuge to people fleeing persecution. That Europe repeatedly closes its doors to people fleeing harm is beyond reprehensible – it is a betrayal of the principles which are supposed to define us and of the rules that are there to protect us all,’ they add.

EU and member states act collectively

The joint statement also recognises that Italy and Malta cannot act alone and need EU institutions to work with them and ‘take collective responsibility for the tragedy unfolding on Europe’s doorstep and to take concrete steps to ensure that, wherever they are disembarked, people are received in conditions of dignity.

The joint statement is signed by: Aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Allied Rainbow Communities, Anti-Poverty Forum Malta, Caritas Malta, The Critical Institute, Drachma LGBTI, Drachma Parents Group, Integra Foundation, Isles of the Left, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), Kopin, LGBTI+ Gozo, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Maltese Association of Psychiatry, Men Against Violence, MGRM-Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement, Moviment Graffitti, OASI Foundation, Office of the Dean – Faculty of Education University of Malta, People for Change Foundation, Richmond Foundation, SOS Malta and SPARK15.