ECRE calls for immediate rescue of stranded Migrants in the Mediterranean

On Monday 28 May, 26 shipwrecked migrants were picked up half way between Libya and Malta by a Spanish vessel. Maltese authorities refuse to allow disembarkation, citing Spanish and Libyan responsibility, bringing to mind last year's incident in which a Spanish boat rescuing 51 persons was left at sea for a whole week without permission to land anywhere. ECRE has called upon Malta to comply with international maritime law and to fulfil their duty to allow disembarkation.
ECRE Secretary General Bjarte Vandvik said: "It is shocking and shameful to see how humans are abandoned to their fate at sea, while States of the European Union argue about who is to bear the responsibility, instead of fulfilling the humanitarian imperative to rescue and protect people facing the risk of drowning at sea."

Last week alone 200 migrants arrived in Malta while 150 migrants are believed to have drowned on the journey during the same period, among them 53 Eritrean refugees whose boat disappeared before help was sent. Another 27 stranded migrants were left hanging in a tuna net for 3 days and 3 nights, as the captain of the ship refused to take them on board.

Malta and the Southern European states undoubtedly face a considerable challenge given the numbers of migrants arriving at their coasts, yet it must be their duty and first priority to save lives in peril.

With estimates of up to 10,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea last year, European Member States urgently need to set up a functional system of mutual support and burden sharing, allowing for the fastest possible rescue of shipwrecked people without leaving their saviour to bear responsibility alone.

"The situation in the Mediterranean is a test case for Europe's commitment to humanitarian values and for the solidarity between its member states. It is a sign of catastrophically wrong priorities, when people are left to drown because nobody wants to take responsibility for them", says Vandvik.

ECRE has issued a press release calling on Malta to allow immediate disembarkation of the 26 migrants and on the Member States of the European Union to show solidarity and to assist Malta in the reception of migrants and asylum seekers.