ICS, UNHCR and IOM call on states to end crisis onboard Maersk Etienne

Twitter / Sea Watch

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

ICS, the International Chamber of Shipping, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are calling for the immediate disembarkation of the 27 rescued people trapped onboard the cargo ship Maersk Etienne.

The migrants, including one child and a pregnant woman, have now been onboard the Maersk Etienne for more than one month now.

ICS, UNHCR and IOM said that governments have been refusing permission for the ship’s Master to disembark the migrants and refugees who fled Libya, in contravention of international law.

The ship’s crew have been sharing food, water and blankets with those rescued. They are however not trained or able to provide medical assistance to those who need it. A commercial vessel is not a safe environment for these vulnerable people and they must be immediately brought to a safe port, said ICS, UNHCR and IOM.

“The conditions are rapidly deteriorating onboard, and we can no longer sit by while governments ignore the plight of these people,” said Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping.

In a letter to the organization’s Secretary General, the International Chamber of Shipping has called on the International Maritime Organization to urgently intervene and “send a clear message that states must ensure that Maritime Search and Rescue incidents are resolved in accordance with the letter and spirit of international law.”

The Maersk Etienne is the third incident this year in which a merchant vessel has been stranded caring for people rescued at sea. In May, the Marina was delayed for six days with some 80 rescued people on board before being able to disembark, while in July, the Talia took four days out of its scheduled journey to care for 50 people who were finally allowed to disembark in a place of safety after 4 days. This latest incident represents a significant escalation of the situation.

IOM Director General António Vitorino mentioned how “IOM and UNHCR have long called on states to move away from the current ad hoc approach and establish a scheme whereby coastal states take equal responsibility in providing a port of safety, followed by a show of solidarity from other EU member states.”