Sea-Watch says Malta to blame for migrant deaths
"For every preventable death that occurs at sea, your government has direct responsibility," a Sea-Watch statement said.
Its ship, Sea-Watch 3 has been confined to port in Valletta since early July despite safety inspections by Dutch officials, which the German non-governmental organisation (NGO) says entitles it to fly the Dutch flag.
"Your political pressure and power plays cost the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world today," Sea-Watch, said, calling Malta's action "a conscious attempt to hinder the rescue of people in distress."
With the issue of immigration fuelling populist movements across Europe, the EU is under pressure to stem the arrival of illegal migrants, many of whom risk their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean in derelict boats.
Latest figures from the International Organisation for Migration show that 73,696 migrants have reached five EU countries via the Mediterranean so far this year, while 1,565 have died at sea.
"Dear Mr Prime Minister, with the present letter, Sea-Watch holds the Maltese government responsible for deliberately and arbitrarily detaining the ship Sea-Watch 3 for over two months, without legal justification and rather on a merely political basis.
"his is a conscious attempt to hinder the rescue of people in distress on the Central Mediterranean. We consider letting power dynamics blatantly override the rule of law a non-tolerable attitude for a constitutional state and rather shameful.
"For 70 days, Sea-Watch has refrained from publicly disclosing the diplomatic steps undertaken to try to resolve the situation at a political level.
"Sea-Watch has endeavoured to show transparency and due diligence while observing, on the government’s side, a lack of consistency in its bilateral relation with Sea-Watch, including an abrupt change in attitude and positioning in its direct communications with Sea-Watch.
"Your office inappropriately communicated the restriction of our freedom of movement from Malta via press releases while our formal request to leave the island was denied by the Port Authority in an undocumented and vague form, lacking any official act.
"This approach is furthermore challenged by the successful class upgrade obtained by the Sea-Watch 3 at the end of June, followed by the positive result of the inspection carried out by the flag state, the Netherlands, upon the Maltese request to ascertain the correct use of the ship, where the Dutch authorities concluded that the Sea-Watch 3 fulfills and exceeds safety requirements according to its use.
"Sea-Watch engaged directly with you as Prime Minister, who gave false hope to the organisation with regards to a dialogue and the possibility of reaching a solution. Instead, the government has deliberately halted the agreement to let the Sea-Watch 3 leave internal waters reached with the Maltese Ministry of Transport at the end of August.
"Transport Malta in fact authorized Sea-Watch to leave port on the condition, amongst others, not to navigate into Maltese waters unless authorized or instructed to do so. The decision was reverted a few days later, based on an alleged veto imposed at the highest governmental level." ■