Mr Muscat – show responsibility and release our ship

Looking forward, we look at the harbour of Valletta. At the moment our journey does not go any further, because Malta has decided to turn its back on human rights. Credit: Nick Jaussi/Sea-Watch

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. This 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.

Sea-Watch has mandated a team of lawyers to facilitate written communication with the Maltese Transport Authority in an attempt to end the ship’s detention in port. We endeavoured to propose an acceptable compromise, while proving the correct and regular status of our vessel through the necessary documentation and inspections.

In its most recent written communication to Sea-Watch, the Transport Authority makes explicit reference to the political situation in Malta and in Libya, a country which is not considered safe, especially for those seeking protection, and which is currently in a declared state of emergency. Such political arguments do not mirror the alleged registration issue and again, clearly show the scandalous political nature of the ship’s detention.

For every preventable death that occurs at sea, your government has direct responsibility, which it shall acknowledge and rectify. It is time Maltese decision makers at highest levels, including you, are held to account for their deadly decisions.

In light of the above, Sea-Watch publicly demands for the immediate release of its vessel and asks you to allow the Port authority to grant permission to the Sea-Watch 3 to leave the port of Valletta to restore its operations. Your political pressure and power plays cost lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world today.

 

Best regards,

the Sea-Watch Board