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Unlawful detention of NGO rescue vessel ends

Sea-Watch 3 cleared to leave Malta after being held for three months

The NGO said "it is about time, the Maltese authorities released our ship' (Photo: Sea-watch.org)

The Sea-Watch 3 was finally allowed to leave Malta after three months of unlawful detention. The migrant rescue vessel set sail to Spain where it will undergo repairs and refits before continuing its rescue operations.

The rescue vessel left Valetta on Saturday morning.

In a statement, the NGO said that while its vessel was detained by the Maltese government the death rate in the central Mediterranean is at record high. According to the the UN’s Migration Agency, IOM, 1,852 people have died in the Mediterranean in 2018.

The Dutch-flagged, 50-metre rescue vessel Sea-Watch 3 had been blocked from leaving Malta since 2 July, along with other civil rescue ships by the Maltese government.

Malta had launched investigations into the registration of MS Lifeline, following a standoff about the disembarkation of more than 200 rescued migrants from the ship and detained all other Dutch-flagged rescue ships based on the island the same day, without legal grounds.

Despite a report by the Netherlands, which cleared the Sea-Watch 3 of all accusations and doubts regarding its registration, equipment and capability, the Maltese government unlawfully held the ship for almost two more months without justification.

“It is about time, the Maltese authorities released our ship”, Johannes Bayer, chairman of Sea-Watch said.

“More than 500 people have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, since to our ships have been detained – probably many more of whom nobody knows, since no one was there, at the world’s deadliest border, to report their fate.”

The Sea-Watch 3 is now bound for Spain to undergo regular maintenance and to be refitted for its upcoming tasks.

“The Sea-Watch 3 is currently the biggest and best equipped civilian rescue asset in the Central Mediterranean Sea”, Captain Pia Klemp said, adding “we’re more than relieved that it was finally freed from this political charade”

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