The refusal by Malta and other European countries to take in 32 men, women and children stranded out at sea for days was a “travesty of humanity,” according to 18 human rights organisations.
“We, the undersigned NGOs, urge the government to once more lead by example and allow the people stranded on board the rescue vessel, Sea Watch 3, to disembark in Malta. Malta should do this whether or not it is legally responsible for disembarkation in terms of international law,” they`said in a joint statement.
Malta, like all other European states, has a legal obligation to offer refuge to people fleeing persecution. Failure to do so, “is beyond regrettable, it is a travesty of humanity”.
“The standard argument these days is that migrants rescued at sea should be returned to Libya, even if we know that they will be imprisoned in horrible conditions, tortured, raped, or sold as slaves. This is a flagrant violation of our freely assumed commitment to ensure that no one is returned to a country where their safety is not guaranteed and where they are at risk of torture or other violations of their rights,” they said.
The organisations said it was “facile” to argue that Malta was somehow absolved of responsibility for their fate, pointing out that that responsibility was not only legal, but also moral and ethical.
“It is nothing short of cynical to use laws enacted to preserve life and protect human dignity to justify a refusal to provide a safe haven to people fleeing persecution. In so doing, we violate the spirit of the law, under the pretense of upholding its letter,” the NGOs said.
They called on the government “not to look the other way”, and to open the country’s doors to those who need it most.
The statement was signed by the following organisations:
- aditus foundation,
- African Media Association,
- Allied Rainbow Communities,
- Christian Life Community (CLC) Malta,
- Cross Culture International Foundation (CCIF),
- Department for Inclusion and Access to Learning – Faculty of Education University of Malta,
- Integra Foundation,
- JRS Malta,
- Kummissjoni Ġustizzja u Paċi,
- Malta Emigrants Commission,
- Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement,
- People for Change Foundation,
- Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM),
- Solidarity with Migrant Group,
- SOS Malta,
- Spark 15,
- The Critical Institute,
- Women’s Rights Foundation