Again, a cyni­cal power strugg­le is car­ri­ed out at the expan­se of refu­gees res­cued in dis­tress. The huma­ne tre­at­ment for 102 pro­tec­tion see­king men, women and child­ren is not an issue. Their life and their phy­si­cal inte­gri­ty are of no impor­t­ance in this mili­ta­ry blo­cka­de in inter­na­tio­nal waters near Malta.

PRO ASYL sta­tes: The­re is no “safe har­bor” for refu­gees in Libya. After the era of Gad­da­fi, pro­tec­tion see­kers are still expo­sed to seve­re human rights vio­la­ti­ons the­re. If Euro­pean sta­tes for­ce the tan­ker to return to Libya, human and refu­gee rights of the res­cued boat peop­le would be violated.

The har­sh hand­ling of the boat and the crew of the Sala­mis is meant as a deter­rent. In this part of the Medi­ter­ra­ne­an Sea more than 3.000 boat peop­le have drow­ned in the last two years. In many cases it has been docu­men­ted that poli­ce, mili­ta­ry and com­mer­cial ves­sels had neglec­ted res­cue from dis­tress. Threa­tening the tan­ker Sala­mis with mili­ta­ry for­ce sends out a fatal mes­sa­ge to other boat crews again: look away, car­ry on, and avoid pro­blems with peop­le in distress.

An end of Euro­pean indif­fe­rence in view of thousands of deaths would be a first step towards deve­lo­ping a com­mon poli­cy for the recep­ti­on of boat peop­le. It would be a clear rejec­tion of the push-back poli­cy to Libya.


In the night of Sunday to Mon­day, 102 refu­gees in dis­tress at sea were res­cued by the crew of the tan­ker “Sala­mis”. The Ita­li­an Mari­ti­me Res­cue Coor­di­na­ti­on Cent­re had inst­ruc­ted the ves­sel to res­cue the dis­tres­sed per­sons. After the res­cue the Ita­li­an aut­ho­ri­ties inst­ruc­ted the ship to pro­ceed to a “place of safe­ty” in Libya for the disem­bar­ka­ti­on of the res­cued refu­gees. Ins­tead the tan­ker took cour­se for Mal­ta and is cur­r­ent­ly pre­ven­ted from ent­e­ring Mal­te­se waters by the Armed For­ces of Mal­ta. The sur­vi­vors of the ship­w­reck, amongst them 20 women and a baby, are stuck on the tan­ker. Accord­ing to the ship’s ope­ra­tors, the crew won’t be able to pro­vi­de for the refu­gees any longer.

The Inter­na­tio­nal Con­ven­ti­on on Mari­ti­me Search and Res­cue (SAR) of 1979 obli­ges ship crews to bring res­cued per­sons to a “place of safe­ty”.  In the annex it is spe­ci­fied that this place can­not be defi­ned sole­ly by geo­gra­phi­cal loca­ti­on. Pro­tec­tion see­kers and refu­gees reco­ve­r­ed at sea may not be disem­bar­ked in ter­ri­to­ries whe­re their lives and free­doms would be threa­tened. The Inter­na­tio­nal Mari­ti­me Orga­niz­a­ti­on empha­si­zes this in the Reso­lu­ti­on MSC.167(78), 6.17 of the Mari­ti­me Safe­ty Com­mit­tee. In Libya refu­gees are at risk of suf­fe­ring seve­re human rights vio­la­ti­ons. A func­tio­n­ing asyl­um sys­tem that pro­tects refu­gees doesn’t exist.

The Ita­li­an aut­ho­ri­ties inst­ruc­ting the ship to disem­bark res­cued pro­tec­tion see­kers the­re, appears to be an attempt to ille­gal­ly push back pro­tec­tion see­kers to Libya by using a com­mer­cial ves­sel. This would mean a bre­ach of the princip­le of non-refoulement.

Accord­ing to Mal­ta Today, some refu­gees who had been res­cued by a Tur­kish ship in the same night, had been brought back to Libya in accordance with the inst­ruc­tions of Ita­li­an authorities.

 102 Flücht­lin­ge sit­zen auf Tan­ker vor Mal­ta fest (06.08.13)

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