New armed clashes in Tripoli tighten the situation in Libya. Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat claims “apprehension”, yet continues blocking rescue ships in Maltese Harbours and thereby obstructs the last escape route for the local population and refugees, caught in the crossfire. Sea-Watch files legal protest against Maltese grounding of the reconnaissance aircraft Moonbird.
Already on September 1, 2018, Muscat tweeted Malta was “following situation in Tripoli with deep apprehension. [The] international community cannot turn a blind eye and pretend it is not happening.” At that date, fierce fighting in and around Tripoli had been ongoing for three days. One day later a state of emergency was declared. The Libyan civilian population and thousands of refugees and migrants are caught in between various militias without any possibility to get out of harms way. “Muscat talks of not looking away and illegally impedes the deployment of civilian rescue assets and of the reconnaissance aircraft Moonbird. While diplomats are evacuated by sea, thousands fleeing war and violence are deserted by the European Union again. Those who speak of human rights, should act as well”, says Johannes Bayer, member of Board from Sea-Watch.
According to media reports, apart from most of the supply infrastructure, also the so-called Libyan Coast Guard has collapsed, so that there is no sea-rescue whatsoever left in the central Mediterranean Sea. Nearly all civilian rescue assets are detained in various ports, due to political interventions by EU member states – three of them, the Sea-Watch 3, Seefuchs and Lifeline, in Malta. “While rival militias wage war against each other for every meter of land, without any regard for residential areas or refugee detention centers, European states – with Malta leading the way – only act to efficiently hinder civilian rescue efforts. Joseph Muscat should save his hypocritical tweets when he is not ready to act accordingly.” says Johannes Bayer
Malta also prevents the Sea-Watch search plane Moonbird since May 25, 2018, from flying its human rights observation mission over the Central Mediterranean. Just as for the detention of Sea-Watch 3, the island state remains short on a legal justification for this obstruction. After months of negotiations Sea-Watch now filed a legal protest atJohannes Bayer. “We have kept still and tried to reach an agreement on diplomatic ways for long enough. The case of Moonbird shows that Malta not only shuts off sea rescue but also wants to hide the disastrous consequences of this blockade from the eyes of the world. One cannot turn a blind eye and pretend it is not happening more actively, than Joseph Muscat is right now”, says Johannes Bayer of Sea-Watch, referring to Muscat’s twitter message.