Rescue NGO Sea-Watch will be taking legal action against the Maltese government for grounding the sea plane Moonbird from taking part in rescue missions in the Mediterranean.
With the situation in Libya escalating as refugees and citizens are caught in the crossfire of the war between militia groups, something had to be done, the NGO said.
Sea-Watch pointed out that the Maltese government had still not provided a legal justification for preventing the Moonbird from leaving and, after months of negotiation, filed a protest.
“We have tried to reach an agreement diplomatically for long enough. The case of Moonbird shows that Malta not only shuts off sea rescue but also wants to hide the disastrous consequences of this blockade from the eyes of the world,” Johannes Bayer, Sea-Watch board member, said.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat tweeted about not turning a blind eye to Libya but “illegally impedes the deployment of civilian rescue vessels and the Moonbird. While diplomats are evacuated by sea, thousands fleeing war and violence are deserted by the European Union again. Those who speak of human rights, should act as well,” he added.
A state of emergency was declared in Libya on Sunday after three days of fighting and, according to media reports, “the so-called Libyan Coast Guard has collapsed”, leaving no sea rescue whatsoever in the Mediterranean, Bayer said.
Nearly all civilian rescue vessels were detained in ports around Europe – due to political interventions by EU member states. Three of these, the Sea-Watch 3, Seefuchs and Lifeline, are kept in Malta.
“While rival militias wage war against each other for every metre of land, without any regard for residential areas or refugee detention centers, European States – with Malta leading the way – only act to efficiently hinder civilian rescue efforts. Muscat should save his hypocritical tweets when he is not ready to act accordingly,” Bayer said.
On Thursday, the NGO released a video mocking one produced by the Maltese government highlighting its success at “mobilising political willingness among EU countries to find effective solutions to the migration crisis”.
“The most effective solution Joseph Muscat and his MaltaGov have found so far: Shutting down rescue operations and letting migrants drown. Somehow they forgot to mention this accomplishment in their image video – but we’re more than happy to help out!” they said on their Facebook page.