NGO calls for Italy and Malta to open ports to migrant ship

Photo Credit: Amnesty International

 ROME – Amid the standoff between Italian, Maltese and Spanish authorities that has left 121 migrants stranded at sea in searing temperatures, Amnesty International is calling for Italy and Malta to open their ports.

 More than 30 children, including two babies, and almost 90 men and women are stranded on the overcrowded Proactiva Open Arms NGO ship, located around 30 nautical miles from Italy, between Malta and Lampedusa.

 “After a week stranded at sea in blistering heat, these women, men and children who have risked their lives to escape human rights abuses in Libya should be immediately disembarked either in Malta or Italy,” Amnesty International’s Senior Researcher on Migration Maria Serrano said in a statement.

 “Despite mounting concerns for the well-being of those on board, politicians are shamelessly breaching their responsibilities under international law by refusing to grant a safe port to people who could face torture if returned to Libya and who are exhausted and in need of protection and care.”

 In recent days, Italian parliament introduced a new law dubbed “the Decreto Sicurezza bis,” which means NGO rescue boats entering Italian territorial waters without permission could face fines of up to one million Euros as well as impoundment.

 The UNHCR has criticized the new measures, which could further discourage sea rescue operations. 

 “It is time that European governments stop playing with people’s lives and deploy adequate resources for search and rescue where they are needed," Ms Serrano said.

 "They must urgently agree on a swift and predictable disembarkation mechanism in line with international law and on a fair system to distribute asylum-seekers among EU countries."