Malta yesterday refused permission to the Italian Navy ship Borsini to land in Malta for the purpose of disembarking 334 rescued migrants. The migrants were rescued in the Maltese Search and Rescue Area south of Lampedusa on Saturday by several Italian coastguard patrol boats and transferred at sea to the Borsini. The Borsini then sailed to Malta. Malta refused permission because it said that Lampedusa or Tunisia were the closest safe locations. The Italians sought to disembark the rescued migrants at Malta because Lampedusa was overwhelmed with the arrivals of approximately 2000 migrants over the past 36 hours. The Borsini left Malta and is sailing to Taranto on the Italian mainland to disembark the migrants.
Tag Archives: Search and rescue area
Maltese Justice and Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici is quoted by AP as saying that migrant boats leaving Libya “have the right of passage and nobody can stop them, not even our forces or a NATO ship. As long as [the boats] are not in distress, then [there] is no issue.”
While Mifsud Bonnici’s observation about the right of passage in international waters is technically correct, given that all or virtually all of the migrant boats that have left Libya in recent weeks have been severely overloaded, all migrant boats leaving North Africa under the current situation should be considered to be in distress and in need of rescue. Migrant boats departing from Libya with few exceptions must pass through the Maltese Search and Rescue Area and Malta should not avoid its rescue at sea obligations under international law by claiming that it is respecting a vessel’s right of passage. The UNHCR has called upon “states, commercial shipping companies and others present in the Mediterranean to consider that all boats leaving Libya for Europe are likely to require assistance.”
Click here for UNHCR statement.
2500+ New Migrant Landings in Lampedusa; Italy and Malta in New Diplomatic Dispute Over Search and Rescue Responsibilities
Migrant boats carrying over 2500 persons arrived in Lampedusa over the weekend. The boats are all believed to have departed from Libya. Improving sea conditions are thought to be responsible for the new surge in migrant boats. Italy has said it will lodge a formal diplomatic complaint with Malta over what it says was Malta’s failure to rescue a migrant boat in distress. The migrant boat in question was apparently closer to Lampedusa than to Malta, but was within the Maltese SAR zone when a distress call was made. Maltese authorities said they were unable to send their patrol boats to the boat that was in distress due to bad sea conditions. Italian coast guard boats eventually provided assistance while NATO and Armed Forces of Malta aircraft provided air surveillance.
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.
WikiLeaks 2008 US Cable: Death of Key Libyan Official Hampers Counter-Migration Efforts / Malta’s Efforts to Negotiate Readmission Agreement With Libya On Hold
This cable reports comments made by Malta’s Ambassador to Libya, Joseph Cassar, about the negative impact caused by the death of Fawzi Ghariba, Director of International Cooperation for Libya’s Port Authority-equivalent, on Maltese efforts to coordinate migration control and SAR operations with Libya. The cable was written in May 2008 by the US Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires, Chris Stevens, and is titled: “Death of Key Libyan Official Hampers Counter-Migration Efforts.”
Ambassador Cassar was reported as saying that the death of Fawzi Ghariba six weeks earlier “had negatively impacted the GOL’s responsiveness on illegal migration issues at a critical time.” Cassar said Ghariba “played a key role in finalizing recent Malta-Libya and Italy-Malta bilateral cooperation agreements on migration issues [and that he] was an energetic and efficient operator and one of the only GOL officials who approached illegal migration with any sense of urgency. Cassar “said efforts to finalize … a readmission agreement under which migrants found to have entered Malta illegally could be returned to their country of departure (Libya) rather than their countries of origin, had been frozen since Ghariba’s death.”
Most of the Cable’s text follows:
“DEATH OF KEY LIBYAN OFFICIAL HAMPERS COUNTER-MIGRATION EFFORTS…
HIGH SEASON FOR ILLEGAL MIGRANTS
2.(SBU) Maltese Ambassador Joseph Cassar pulled P/E Chief aside for a conversation on illegal migration as the latter penned a message in the condolences book for the recently deceased Sir Anthony Mamo, the first President of Malta. Saying it had been “a bad week”, Cassar noted that more than 70 illegal migrants had made landfall and requested asylum in Malta during a single 48-hour period earlier this week. More than half of the 70 individuals claimed to have departed from Libya’s coast, prompting Valletta to task its embassy in Tripoli to reiterate requests that the GOL increase patrols in its Search and Rescue area (SAR). Cassar noted that more vessels transporting illegal migrants appear to be calling via satellite telephones to claim distress and request assistance immediately after entering Malta’s SAR. He suggested that they did so to mitigate the chance that they would founder before being rescued.
KEY OFFICIAL’S DEATH DIMINISHES LIBYA’S RESPONSIVENESS
3.(SBU) Cassar said the GOL’s response to the Maltese demarche had been “disappointing”. He noted that the unexpected death six weeks ago of Engineer Fawzi Ghariba, former Director of International Cooperation for Libya’s Port Authority-equivalent and a key interlocutor on counter-migration efforts, had negatively impacted the GOL’s responsiveness on illegal migration issues at a critical time. (Note: Launches from Libya of vessels transporting illegal migrants typically increase in spring/summer months to take advantage of improved weather and sea conditions. End note.) Describing Ghariba’s operating style as “American”, he said the late official played a key role in finalizing recent Malta-Libya and Italy-Malta bilateral cooperation agreements on migration issues (reftel). More importantly, Ghariba was an energetic and efficient operator and one of the only GOL officials who approached illegal migration with any sense of urgency. In several cases, Ghariba had galvanized the GOL to deal with migration issues and prompted disparate GOL entities to coordinate their efforts through the force of his personality. On instructions from Valletta, Cassar has asked the GOL several times when a successor to Ghariba might be identified; however, the GOL has demurred, saying it would be unseemly to rush to appoint a replacement.
BROADER EFFORTS ON TRAINING, READMISSION AGREEMENTS ALSO IMPACTED
4.(C) Cassar said Malta has focused on enhancing training for Libyan CG officials patrolling Libya’s SAR area. He said efforts to finalize an agreement to provide such training, as well as a readmission agreement under which migrants found to have entered Malta illegally could be returned to their country of departure (Libya) rather than their countries of origin, had been frozen since Ghariba’s death. (Comment: A number of European countries have been pursuing similar readmission agreements with the GOL. All have encountered significant difficulty in attempting to finalize those, suggesting that factors other than Ghariba’s death may bear on Malta’s efforts. End comment.) He encouraged the U.S. to continue focusing on training and material assistance for Libya’s CG. (Note: Two Libyan CG officers are scheduled to participate in upcoming training programs at a facility in Malta that uses a U.S. Coast Guard curriculum. End note.) Suggesting that he did not agree with Valletta’s position that equipment donations [i.e., by wealthier EU countries like Italy] to Libya to combat illegal migration be predicated on the GOL “taking greater responsibility” for its SAR, Cassar described the Libyan CG’s equipment needs as “considerable”….”