NGOs seek UN intervention over asylum seekers stuck on tanker for 30 days

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Four international NGOs have requested an urgent intervention from the UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and on the Rights of Migrants, seeking the disembarkation of 27 rescued asylum seekers who have been stuck on board a tanker off Malta’s coast for a month.

The group, which includes a child and a pregnant woman, had found themselves in distress at sea after fleeing Libya on 2 August. They were eventually rescued within Malta’s search-and-rescue zone by the Maersk Etienne three days later, on 5 August.

But the CSDM, Alarm Phone, Sea-Watch and Mediterranea – Saving Humans observed that Malta has refused to grant permission to disembark, insisting that this was unlawful.

30 days later, the NGOs highlight, the vessel remains effectively stranded in the Mediterranean. A Maersk official was quoted as stating that “our crew continue to provide as much support and assistance as they can to this vulnerable group, but they lack the resources to offer sustained humanitarian and medical care… a tanker ship is neither designed nor equipped to accommodate additional people; we therefore find ourselves in a situation where our supplies are rapidly depleting.”

Despite continued please for humanitarian assistance and safe disembarkation, Malta has continued to refuse to cooperate.

In their letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs, the NGOs argued that Malta was in breach of its international obligations, including the principle of non-refoulement, the right to request asylum, the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and an obligation to permit disembarkation in a safe port.