Migration, Malta accused of another push back at sea
LA VALLETTA (MALTA) (ITALPRESS/MNA) – The Maltese authorities are being accused of another push back of migrants. The latest accusations came from the non-governmental organisation Alarm Phone alleging that 71 migrants on a deflating rubber boat were pushed back out of the Maltàs search and rescue.
The group was later rescued by the ship ‘Geo Barents’ operated by another NGO Doctors Without Borders. It was confirmed that the rubber boat was taking on water in rough sea conditions, including strong winds and three meters high waves.
Earlier, Geo Barents, with 296 migrants aboard its rescue ship, was awaiting permission in waters off Malta to disembark. Six migrants tested positive for Covid-19. According to Doctors Withour Borders, it was difficult to keep the whole group of migrants sufficiently distant from the others due to the crowded conditions on board the ship.
According to Alarm Phone, the Maltese authorities were informed about the migrants in distress on Sunday morning and appealed to the authorities to “act immediately and to stop these crimes at sea.”
In another notification, Alarm Phone said it is in contact with another 68 people, including many children, who are in distress in Maltàs SAR and confirmed that the Maltese authorities were already alerted. “They have engine problems and face strong winds and rough seas. We demand European authorities respect the law and fulfill their responsibility!” Alarm Phone said, adding “they see an airplane above them, which we identify as a Frontex plane. The people on board ask why Europe just watches from above but doesn’t rescue them for over a day now.”
A recent European Commission report showed that migration in the Central Mediterranean route increased by 82% in 2021. However, the total number of arrivals in Malta during the same period decreased by 78%.
Maltese and Italian authorities are often accused of coordinating push backs to Libya. Both countries deny this accusation but a Council of Europe report published in March said repeated failures to respond and delays in attending to distress calls by Malta and other countries, “risked jeopardising the right to life of people at sea”.