Humanitarian NGOs slam Malta over migrant push back to Egypt

Twenty-three people were sent to Egypt on the instructions of the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) after being at sea for four days in poor weather conditions and with very limited supplies of food and water, which has led to accusations that Malta has violated international law.

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, four NGOs said, “the lack of clear guidance and the unnecessary delays in coordinating the rescue deliberately put the lives of the 23 people on board at imminent risk”.

Alarm Phone, Mediterranea Saving Humans, Médecins Sans Frontières and SeaWatch said Malta breached international rules.

“This is a common practice by the Maltese authorities to avoid having to engage in a rescue operation themselves and to prevent arrivals in Malta, as witnessed and documented in several cases by civil SAR organisations.

“As organisations engaging in Search and Rescue (SAR) activities at sea, we denounce the forcible transfer of these 23 people to Egypt and call for consequences to Malta’s blatant violations of maritime and international law,” they said.

At the time of the rescue, those on board the small boat had already been at sea for four days in Malta’s SAR, in poor weather conditions and with very limited supplies of food and water.

“As organisations engaging in SAR activities at sea, we denounce the forcible transfer of these 23 people to Egypt and call for consequences to Malta’s blatant violations of maritime and international law,” the organisations said.

Following a distress call on 22 September, Malta instructed a merchant vessel in the area to pick up the asylum seekers on 26 September – four days later.

The lack of clear guidance and the unnecessary delays in coordinating the rescue deliberately put the lives of the 23 people on board at imminent risk. “This is common practice by the Maltese authorities,” the NGOs said.

                           
                           
                               
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