Thirty-seven civil society organisations on Tuesday expressed concern about the fate of over 100 men, women and children reportedly in distress at sea.

Times of Malta reported on Sunday that a group of 110 people may be unaccounted for, with emergency hotline NGO Alarm Phone accusing the Armed Forces of Malta of ordering a rescue vessel to leave the scene of the drifting boat the migrants were in. 

In a statement, the 37 organisations noted that these people were “in distress in Malta’s search and rescue zone” in the past days and that a ship that was willing to rescue them, “was prevented from doing so by Malta”.

“Now, we are unable to say where they are, if they have been pushed back to Libya or even if they are alive. It is unacceptable that Malta relinquishes its duty to coordinate the rescue of persons in distress in its search and rescue zone.

“It is also undemocratic and reprehensible that Malta has repeatedly refused to provide information on its decisions and actions,” they said.

Malta’s migration concerns in no way justify abandoning people in distress at sea, they added. 

The Maltese authorities, they said, are accountable for their decisions and actions, and withholding information” in an attempt to circumvent these obligations” is not in line with core democratic values.

They urged Malta to ensure that “all efforts are made” to secure the lives of the 110 missing persons and asked the country “to immediately publish” all information regarding this incident and commit to a spirit of transparency and accountability for future incidents. 

The statement was signed by: aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Alliance for Justice, Equality and Peace, Allied Rainbow Communities, Anti-Poverty Forum Malta, Blue Door English, The Critical Institute, The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, Dean's Office, Faculty for Social Wellbeing, University of Malta , Dean’s Office, Faculty of Education, University of Malta, Fondazzjoni Sebħ, Great Oak Malta Association, Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), KNŻ - Kunsill Nazzjonali taż-Żgħażagħ, LGBTI+ Gozo, Malta House of Prayer Foundation, Malta Humanist Association, Malta Refugee Council, Maltese Association of Psychiatry, The Maltese Association of Social Workers (MASW), Men Against Violence, Migrants Commission, Migrant Women Association Malta, Millennium Chapel, Moviment Graffitti, Paolo Freire Institute, Peace and Good Foundation, Repubblika, Salesians of Don Bosco - Dar Osanna Pia, Segretarjat Assistenza Soċjali tal-Azzjoni Kattolika Maltija, SOS Malta, Spark 15, St Jeanne Antide Foundation, Sudanese Community, Victim Support Malta Foundation, and the Women’s Rights Foundation.

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