On Thursday last week, a Maltese AFM patrol boat searching for survivors from Wednesday’s sinking of the migrant boat near Lampedusa encountered another migrant boat with 171 migrants and removed the migrants from the overcrowded boat. The rescue occurred approximately 54 nautical miles from Lampedusa and 91 nautical miles from Malta. The Maltese patrol boat attempted to disembark the migrants at the closer port in Lampedusa but was denied entry into the port. The migrants were then taken to Malta – an eight hour sail from Lampedusa. Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, Malta’s Interior Minister, accused Italy of reneging on its “legal and humanitarian obligations” due to its failure to allow the migrants to be taken to the closer port. The migrants involved have said they are Eritrean and Libyan. If accurate, these may be the first Libyans to have been detected leaving by sea.
Tag Archives: Armed Forces of Malta
Italian Interior Minister Maroni has criticised Malta for failing to immediately deploy rescue ships to assist the migrant boat that sank near Lampedusa. The Armed Forces of Malta said that the migrant boat did not capsize until after two Italian coast guard boats had responded and were on scene attempting to render assistance. The AFM said the first call for assistance was received Wednesday at 0025, the Rescue Co-ordination Centre of the AFM notified Italian Coast Guard headquarters in Rome and NATO headquarter in Naples at 0120, two Italian coast guard boats and an Italian fishing vessel, the Cartagine, were on scene by 0416, and the migrant boat capsized around 0535. The migrant boat was closer to Italian territory than to Malta, but was located within Malta’s large Search and Rescue Area. Italy and Malta have had past disputes over the boundaries of the SAR with Italy calling for the Maltese SAR to be reduced in size.
The Secretary-General of International Maritime Organization, Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, issued a statement saying that “[i]t was ironic that the devastating news of this latest tragedy reached us while we were holding a [Legal Committtee] meeting with representatives of Italy and Spain to consider what measures countries in the Mediterranean Basin should take to deal with the increasing number of persons leaving north African and eastern Mediterranean countries to seek refuge in Europe.”
The statement also said that “IMO is in contact with Italy, Malta and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The [Legal Committee] meeting mentioned above was hosted by IMO and held against a background of increasing movement of persons by sea for political and socio-economic reasons or as a result of armed conflict. It was part of an on-going process aimed at improving existing provisions for rescuing migrants at sea and disembarking them at a place of safety, in accordance with the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR Convention) and the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS Convention).”
Click here for article. (IT)
Click here for map the SARs.
Click here for IMO Statement.
300 migrants arrived in Malta this afternoon. A second group of approximately 250 is expected to arrive this evening. The migrants are believed to be Sub-Saharan asylum seekers from Libya.
Under Maltese law, the arriving asylum seekers will be detained. The law purports to authorise detention for up to 18 months. Malta’s detention centres are at present largely empty due to the lack of recent migrant arrivals. COE Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg concluded a visit to Malta just last week. The Commissioner’s report pertaining to his visit has not yet been released, but a statement was released in which the Commissioner called for “the policy of mandatory detention of all irregular migrants, including asylum seekers, [to] be reconsidered.”
Excerpts from the Statement:
“‘Malta and Europe need each other if the challenges of migration are to be met in a manner that respects human rights,’ said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, following his visit to Malta from 23 to 25 March. According to the Commissioner, Malta needs to move away from a reactive approach to migration and establish a system that is fully in line with European standards concerning the human rights of immigrants and asylum seekers. At the same time, a much more generous and collegial approach is needed on the part of other European states, by accepting to host some of the persons to whom Malta has rightly accorded international protection. ‘However, with the exception of France and Germany – and further afield the US – this has not been the case so far.’
The Commissioner underlined that the current uncertainty related to the events in Libya and possible forced migration towards Malta and Europe should not deter the Maltese authorities from undertaking the necessary reforms. ‘Instead this is another reason for more European solidarity to support these reforms’ said the Commissioner, noting also that the substantial decrease in the number of irregular arrivals in Malta over the last two years has taken considerable pressure off Malta.
In this context, the policy of mandatory detention of all irregular migrants, including asylum seekers, should be reconsidered. The Commissioner notes that the mandatory detention of migrants can hardly be reconciled with the requirements set by the European Convention on Human Rights, as also reflected in a July 2010 judgment of the Strasbourg Court in the case of Louled Massoud, which found that Malta had violated the Convention by detaining an asylum seeker, whose claim had been rejected, for almost 18 months. ‘Malta should take all necessary legislative and other measures in order to implement fully and effectively this important judgment of the European Court of Human Rights’ said the Commissioner. Alternatives to the detention of migrants should be provided for in law, in accordance with the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly’s Resolution 1707 (2010). …”
Click here for the Commissioner’s full statement
Click here for link to Commissioner’s thematic web page on human rights of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
The Times of Malta reported on Sunday that the Armed Forces of Malta have not agreed to contribute assets or personnel to Frontex’s Operation Hermes. AFM is still evaluating a request by Frontex to participate.
Click here for article.
Italy has delivered to Libya three patrol boats pursuant to the terms of Italy’s bi-lateral agreement with Libya to control irregular immigration. The three boats that were turned over to Libya in a ceremony attended by Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni supplement three patrol boats which were delivered by Italy earlier.
Maroni spoke at the ceremony and said “Italy and Libya alone cannot carry the burden of a migration problem that touches the whole of Europe. … [The European Commission] has not done much to date [on the migration issue]. In recent days I travelled to Ghana and Niger to sign bilateral accords and it is the first time these countries sign such agreements [on immigration] with a European state. This shows Italy is taking a leading role.”
And unrelated to the new Libyan boats, four new Armed Forces of Malta patrol boats were scheduled to arrive on Wednesday in Malta from Australia. The new patrol boats cost €9.3m and were funded in part by the EU.