Refugees Welcome: open ports!

EU Member States need to act quickly and offer a solution for the 49 rescued refugees on board two rescue ships.

Yesterday, the Times of Malta reported that EU Member States are in talks to figure out the redistribution of refugees that have been rescued in the Mediterranean in the last two weeks.

So while waiting on EU Member States to negotiate distribution conditions which satisfy their own agendas, lives are being put at risk. 49 people have been left at sea, some for almost two weeks, on the rescue ships Professor Albecht Penckt and Sea-Watch 3. Storms are picking up and conditions onboard the rescue ships is deteriorating.

All of these rescued refugees must be offered a safe port for disembarkation and not be left at sea.

dark cloudy background with dark gray strip on top on which is written in yellow "it is unacceptable that refugees have been left at sea for 14 days while EU member states refuse to open their ports. How long do they need to wait for EU member states to finish talks and allow disembarkation? we need EU solidarity now!"

Short-term action and long-term solutions.

Ultimately we need to always defend the right to asylum and a clear long-term EU solution is long-overdue. We need cross EU solidarity as we set up regulations for a fair distribution mechanism. But today, people are being left out at sea, today, people wait, for 12 days people wait, for one safe port to let them disembark.

So it is clear that we also need solutions and action today. We need EU Member States to show solidarity, to open their ports.

In the long-term we need to establish legal and safe channels for migration. The EU needs to develop asylum policy based on solidarity, and this includes the fair sharing of responsibilities among Member States. A fair and common European solution should include an agreement to a permanent distribution mechanism. 

So, in the short-term we need to move quickly beyond talks and negotiations to offer safe ports, cities and future to refugees. In the long-term we need to create common standards and rules for migration in the EU.

There are some things which we should never accept. No to closing ports to rescue ships. No to regional disembarkation platforms outside the EU. Not now, not ever.

dark cloudy background with dark gray strip on top on which is written in yellow "there are some things which we should never accept. no to closing ports to rescue ships! no to regional disembarkation platforms outside the EU! Not now. Not ever."

Credit where credit is due.

It is highly commendable that Malta’s Armed Forces have been engaged in a number of rescue operations in the Mediterranean over the Christmas period. The Government of Malta has offered safety to 249 people. It is also good that the Government of Malta has allowed the rescue ships to enter Maltese waters.

Yesterday, Sea-Watch also reported some of the European cities who are willing to welcome refugees rescued by the Sea Watch 3 and Professor Albecht Penckt. The cities showing solidarity at this time include Naples, Palermo and Livorno in Italy. Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Marburg and Heidelberg in Germany.

Yet EU Member States are refusing to take action.

Sea-Watch ask “why is it so much easier for Civil Society to offer help to people in emergency situations than it is for the Governments?”

Malta’s Civil Society demand more.

Finally, I would like to highlight the statement made by Maltese NGOs on the 2nd January.  It is so important that EU Member States start to show solidarity and uphold their legal, ethical and moral responsibilities.

The lack of solidarity among Member States is not only disappointing, but also demonstrates a disturbing disdain for their legal, ethical and moral responsibilities towards each other, and more importantly, towards the most vulnerable.

aditus foundation, African Media Association, the Critical Institute, the Christian Life Community (CLC) Malta, the Cross Culture International Foundation, Drachma, Department for Inclusion and Access to Learning – Faculty of Education University of Malta, Kummissjoni Gustizzja u Paci, the Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service Malta, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, MGRM – Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement, Moviment Graffitti, People for Change Foundation, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM), Solidarity with Migrant Group, SOS Malta, Spark 15, Women’s Rights Foundation.

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