It was beyond shameful that, yet again, men and women were being left stranded at sea for days, 35 non-governmental organisations said on Tuesday.

In a statement, the NGOs referred to the 50 migrants stranded aboard the MV Talia, a ship designed to carry livestock.

The vessel was sailing from Libya to Spain on Saturday when it was asked to rescue a group of 50 migrants.  

The ship’s captain on Tuesday appealed for “humanitarian help” from the EU, Italian or Maltese authorities to come to the migrants' aid.

The NGOs said the migrants were rescued on the explicit instructions of the Maltese authorities and were now waiting for a port of safety to be identified. Malta, they said, could not abdicate responsibility for people on its territory and for whom it was clearly responsible.

“While we fully appreciate the serious challenges posed by the arrival by sea of asylum-seekers, we underline that, as the state responsible for the search and rescue area where the rescue took place, Malta is responsible for coordinating the disembarkation of the rescued migrants in a port of safety.”

They also said that human rights obligations required Malta to ensure that all who wished to apply for asylum in Malta were able to do so. Malta should also ensure that no one was subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, whether on board the rescuing vessel or in a country to which they were sent for disembarkation.

Malta, together with other states, was also responsible for ensuring that its actions did not serve to deter private vessels from rescuing migrants in distress at sea, the NGOs said.

This would not only be a serious violation of maritime traditions and laws, but also a relinquishment of the value of life and human dignity.

The NGOs noted that the European Union should show true solidarity with people fleeing war and persecution and with those member states struggling to cope with their asylum obligations.

While reiterating their request to the government to allow the rescued migrants to disembark in Malta immediately, they also again called for a meeting with the authorities to discuss Malta's position on rescue at sea and disembarkation, as well as on how they could support Malta’s efforts to secure political consensus on the creation of an effective mechanism for true responsibility-sharing among EU states.

The statement was signed by aditus foundation; African Media Association; Allied Rainbow Communities; Association for Justice; Equality and Peace; Bue Door English; Catholic Voices; Christian Life Community; Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation; Doctors for Choice; Fondazzjoni Sebħ;  Great Oak Malta Association; Integra Foundation; Jesuit Refugee Service; Justice and Peace Commission; KOPIN; Kunsill Nazzjonali taż-Żgħażagħ; LGBTI+ Gozo; Emigrants’ Commission; House of Prayer; Men Against Violence; MGRM; Migrant Women Association; Moviment Graffitti; Office of the Dean, Faculty of Education; Office of the Dean, Faculty for Social Wellbeing; Paolo Freire Institute; Peace and Good Foundation; Repubblika; Richmond Foundation; Segretarjat Assistenza Soċjali tal-Azzjoni Kattolika Maltija; SOS Malta; Sudanese Community;  Sudanese Migrant Association; Victim Support;  and the Women’s Rights Foundation.

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