Almost 150 people are stranded out at sea in Malta’s search and rescue area, while Malta waits for other European states to step in and offer support, NGOs lamented on Monday.
In a joint statement, a group of 32 human rights NGOs and other groups said they had become "disillusioned" with Malta’s position on migrant rescues and disembarkation.
It says the country's ports are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo has also said that EU member states are not living up to their promises to help Malta relocate migrants.
The European Commission, meanwhile says it will help negotiate resettlement, but only after Malta lets the migrants dock.
NGOs said that while they recognised the challenges Malta and Italy faced, "these challenges cannot be used as an excuse to abdicate our responsibility to save lives and to ensure that the rights of all within our jurisdiction are safeguarded".
The NGOs added that this duty is not only a legal but also a moral imperative which can never be subjected to political conditions, such as the availability of concrete offers of relocation.
While calling on Malta to change its position, the NGOs also appealed to EU member states to act on the basis of the principle of solidarity and the fair sharing of responsibilities.
Case-by-case arrangements and ad hoc solutions are contributing to "dangerous political" games and unnecessary suffering, the NGOs said.
The statement was endorsed by; Aditus Foundation; African Media Association Malta; Anti-Poverty Forum Malta;Association for Justice, Equality and Peace (AJEP);Blue Door English; Christian Life Community Malta; Church Homes for the Elderly; Dar Hosea; Department for Inclusion and Access to Learning;Fondazzjoni Sebh;Great Oak Malta Association; Integra Foundation;Jesuit Refugee Service Malta; Justice & Peace Commission; Kopin; Kunsill Nazzjonali taż-Żgħażagħ; Malta Emigrants’ Commission; Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM); Migrant Women Association Malta; Moviment Graffitti; OASI foundation; Office of the Dean of the Faculty of Education; Office of the Dean of the Faculty for Social Wellbeing; Repubblika; Paolo Freire Institute; People for Change Foundation; Salesians Osanna Pia Home; Segretarjat Assistenza Socjali tal-Azzjoni Kattolika Maltija; SOS Malta; St Jeanne Antide Foundation; The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation; Women’s Rights Foundation.