“Search & Rescue operations continue to be criminalised” – Lifeline

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Search & Rescue operations conducted by humanitarian NGOs continue to be criminalised by European governments. This was stated by the humanitarian NGO ‘Mission Lifeline’, whose ship has been seized for 15 months.

On Monday 23rd of September, EU ministers of Interior from France, Italy, Germany, Finland and Malta are meeting in Fort St Angelo to discuss the ‘Predictive Temporary Allocation Programme’. This should decide on an agreement on how to manage migrant landings and relocation in Europe.

Updated: Watch: Italian police seize Lifeline’s vessel; Asylum seekers to disembark

In a statement, Lifeline explained how according to the organisation Missing Migrants, since the beginning of 2019 there have been 933 reported deaths in the Mediterranean Sea due to attempted crossing to Europe.

The ship ‘Mission Lifeline’ has been seized since June 2018. The crew on board is still waiting for authorisation to go out at sea. “Every additional day the Lifeline is not allowed to leave the port, more avoidable deaths are occurring.”

The NGO insisted that the consequences of such policies have led to people being returned to detention centres in Libya, which are notorious for their inhuman treatment of migrants, as numerous human right violations including, rape, torture and the trafficking of persons have been reported.

Lifeline’s demands

Lifeline has stated that it has four demands for the upcoming Ministerial meeting: Safe passage through the Mediterranean for all people fleeing their country, the end of the agreement with the so-called “Libyan coastguard”, the end of the criminalisation of NGOs, and a reform of the Dublin Regulations.

Read: Lifeline rescues 100 asylum seekers; faced threats from Libyan Coast Guard

“We hope that this summit will address and improve the problems we have witnessed during these last months of EU states denying a safe port to search and rescue NGOs, leading to repeated stand-offs whilst creating unsafe and dangerous conditions for the already vulnerable rescued people on board” states Captain Claus-Peter Reisch from the NGO Mission Lifeline, who recently got a fine of €300,000 by Italian authorities after entering the port of Pozzalo despite the ban.