Malta is ‘implicated’ in migrant deaths, says Alarm Phone

Rescue Coordination Centre accused of 'systematic non-assistance'

Fri, Nov 13th 2020, 20:05 Last updated 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Matthew Xuereb

Photo: Ricardo Garcia Vilanova/AFP.

Malta is “implicated” in the ongoing loss of life in the Mediterranean Sea by “routinely” rejecting responsibility for boats even in its own search and rescue zone, NGO Alarm Phone charged yesterday.

The NGO claimed Malta was guilty of “systematic acts of non-assistance” and that the country’s “so-called” rescue coordination centre often failed to answer calls.

In the past few days alone, Malta ignored requests for assistance “more than 10 times”, according to a spokesman.

Alarm Phone was asked for comments after a deadly day in the Mediterranean Sea, with a number of shipwrecks and countless deaths. Several boats were reported to be in distress in Malta’s and Italy’s search and rescue zones. Three boats reached Italy yesterday.

Footage also emerged of a desperate mother on a dinghy, pleading with rescuers to save her baby as they fished out another toddler from a shipwreck off the Libyan coast on Wednesday.

"
Malta’s so called co-ordination centre often failed to answer calls
"

“The Maltese authorities are directly implicated in the ongoing loss of life in the Mediterranean Sea. Routinely, they reject responsibility even for boats within the Maltese search and rescue zone.

“Over the past days, there were dozens of boats in their SAR zone that they left unattended. This means that boats have to try to cross the large Maltese SAR zone in order to reach Italy or be rescued to Lampedusa,” an Alarm Phone spokesman said, when contacted yesterday.

Alarm Phone is an emergency hotline NGO which receives SOS messages from migrants crossing the Mediterranean and then relays them to the national authorities, depending on their exact location.

Malta’s search and rescue area is quite large so this prolongs their distress at sea and the likelihood of them capsizing, the spokesman said.

“The so-called Rescue Coordination Centre of Malta also often fails to even answer their phone. We have gotten used to that, but it remains a scandal. We have called upon the Maltese authorities for years to stop their systematic acts of non-assistance, unfortunately to no avail,” he said.

Questions sent Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri for his reaction to these accusations remained unanswered by the time of writing.

Last month, Prime Minister Robert Abela pledged that Malta will not budge from its hard-line stance on migration unless the EU agrees on a migration pact.