The crew of the product tanker Maersk Etienne and a complement of 27 rescued migrants are still anchored off the coast of Malta, neither delivering the survivors to shore nor continuing the ship’s commercial voyage. Seven days after the rescue, the ship still lacks permission to enter; like many other good samaritan vessels in the Central Mediterranean, the Maersk Etienne must wait.
On August 4, Maersk Etienne responded to a call for assistance from a small boat about 70 nm north of Abu Kammash, Libya. Upon the instructions of Maltese rescue coordination officials, the vessel took the boat’s 27 occupants aboard and got under way for Malta to complete the evolution. However, though the vessel was asked to conduct the rescue by Malta, Malta has not yet given it permission to disembark the rescuees.
“[The rescuees] had called us when in distress at sea one week ago. How is it possible that they are still out there?” wrote the migrant rescue coordination NGO Alarm Phone in a social media statement. “In this way, RCC Malta prevents them from finally reaching land and from enacting their right to seek asylum.”
The Times of Malta reports that the government has not provided a rationale, but Malta’s administration does not generally favor irregular migration from Libya. In April, it chartered three civilian-operated trawlers for an unpublicized effort to interdict and push back migrant boats to Libyan shores, according to an investigation by the New York Times. Among other more recent measures, it attempted to quarantine hundreds of new arrivals on tour boats out at sea; that arrangement fell through when unrest broke out on board, but the government is developing a new plan for isolating up to 200 COVID-19-positive migrants on vessels offshore, the Times of Malta reports.
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