The MV Lifeline is not registered with the Dutch authorities but with a yacht club in the same country, the police said on Monday during the arraignment of the ship’s captain.
Claus-Peter Reisch was charged in connection with the migrant rescue vessel’s irregular registration and was granted bail against a personal guarantee of €10,000. Magistrate Joe Mifsud also ordered him to deposit his passport in court, The Malta Independent reported.
The ship was impounded by the Maltese authorities after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat ordered an investigation into the vessel’s registration. Carrying 234 migrants, the ship spent six days stranded at sea before being granted permission to berth in Malta. The migrants will be relocated among nine countries – including Malta.
The court appointed experts to carry out an onsite visit to the vessel, which is berthed at Boiler Wharf in Senglea. Access to the ship is restricted to preserve evidence.
The police also presented a copy of the captain’s certificate that allows him to sail a power-driven or sailing yacht in coastal waters up until 30 nautical miles from land.
Before the arraignment, a group of protestors stood outside the law courts defending NGOs supporting rescue efforts. Meanwhile, a group of NGOs issued a statement this morning calling on the government to urgently reconsider its decision to close Maltese ports to NGO rescue ships, saying the consequences were “potentially fatal”.
Although “supposedly aimed” at ensuring respect for the law, this decision “directly undermines the protection of human life at Europe’s borders, making them even more dangerous for refugees and asylum seekers”.
NGOs saved thousands of lives in the Mediterranean between 2015 and 2018 – in 2016 they were the most important single Search and Rescue actor, accounting for 26% of all rescues, filling a huge gap in state search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean after Italy scaled back its Mare Nostrum operation in late 2014.
Closing off Malta’s ports to rescue vessels will have the “inevitable consequence” that more people will lose their lives especially since EU states do not seem to have any plans to increase their search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean, but intend to rely instead on the Libyan coastguard to conduct rescues, the NGOs said.
The route from Libya was becoming increasingly more dangerous and, in light of recent government statements stressing the need to allow the Libyan coastguard to operate without obstruction, the actions being taken against NGOs “look like little more than a thinly veiled attempt to block refugees and migrants from leaving Libya”.
The deaths of 100 migrants in the seas off Libya on Sunday, after a Spanish NGO vessel was told that the Libyan coastguard was taking care of the rescue, highlighted the deadly consequences of refusing to collaborate with NGOs and limiting their capacity to operate effectively, they added.
They urged the government to support NGO rescue efforts by also allowing the migrants to disembark in Malta until it was decided where they would be relocated.
The press release was signed by aditus Foundation, Eritrean Community, Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Graffiti, IAFR, Integra Foundation, JRS Malta, Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Malta, Kopin, Libico, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrant Women Association Malta, PFC, PHROM, Solidarity with Migrants Group, SOS Malta and Spark 15.