The Times of Malta reports that the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) and Maltese SAR authorities have rejected what they characterised as the “impression conveyed” by a UNHCR spokesperson that “Maltese SAR authorities abdicated from their responsibilities and did not cooperate with the relevant Italian authorities” in connection with the search for and subsequent rescue of 44 migrants on board a disabled boat on 9-10 November. The migrants were rescued by the Italian Navy ship Foscari and transported to Sicily, not to Lampedusa or Malta which were the two closest ports.
The AFM statement reported by the Times of Malta outlines in detail the Maltese response to the distress call from the migrant boat and Malta and Frontex’s participation in the air and sea search. The AFM statement said that “[t]he decision for the Italian Navy vessel Foscari to take the rescued migrants to an Italian port in Sicily was the result of Italian insistence that Lampedusa does not represent a place of safety for the disembarkation of migrants, despite it being a mere four hours from the position where the persons were rescued. Under the relevant legal regime applicable with the Malta SRR, the persons should have been disembarked in Lampedusa which, despite declarations to the contrary, represented the nearest place of safety.”
Click here for article.
UNHCR, IOM, and Save the Children issued a joint statement expressing concern that Italy’s decision to declare Lampedusa an unsafe port which can no longer receive persons rescued at sea risks “undermin[ing] the entire rescue at sea system for migrants and asylum seekers and at the same time could make rescue operations much more hazardous and complex.”
“Since it is no longer possible to dock in Lampedusa, the ability of the Coast Guard and the “Guardia di Finanza” to carry out rescue at sea will be compromised by the distance they will have to travel to reach the next safe port, e.g Porto Empedocle, 120 nautical miles away. This would have severe implications on rescue operations when the weather is bad, or when it involves transporting people in need of urgent medical assistance, minors and other vulnerable individuals.
Therefore, the partner organizations of the Praesidium Project hope that the Lampedusa centre will be re-established as soon as possible to ensure adequate reception and swift transit for migrants who should be hosted in the centre only for a minimum period of time to allow for assistance and identification before being transferred to appropriate facilities elsewhere in Italy.
Whilst the three partner organizations understand the pressure the island has been under in recent times and the limited capacity of the reception and rescue centre, it is important that Lampedusa remains a safe harbour in order to save lives. …”
Click here (EN) or here (IT) for joint statement.