Even in Corona times, the EU must rescue and take in people in distress at sea

The Covid 19 pandemic led to the closure of the EU's external borders and was used as an excuse by Malta and Italy to close their ports to rescue ships. A boat carrying 55 people was ordered by the Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) in April to be returned to Libya. Twelve people died of thirst or drowned in the process. Already in February 2020 appeared a Expert opinion of the Heinrich Böll Foundationwhich stated that it is clearly illegal to bring people to Libya.

Prof. Dr. Anuscheh Farahat and Prof. Dr. Nora Markard have now published an update of the study entitled. Closed Ports, Dubious Partners Published. The results were presented in a webinar, where I also spoke and which you can watch under this Link finds.

Since March 2019, neither EU nor national search and rescue vessels have been deployed to prevent further deaths in the Mediterranean. Non-governmental organisations trying to fill this gap, are increasingly criminalised and prosecuted.

Libya is not a safe haven

The update to the study shows why EU states are not exempt from their duty to rescue people in distress at sea and provide them with a safe haven, even in times of pandemic. Covid-19 must not be used as an excuse for allowing people to drown in the Mediterranean. Libya continues not to be a safe haven and returns to Libya, as instructed by Malta, continue to violate existing law.

As the cases of the Alan Kurdi and the Aita Mari show, a quarantine of two weeks for the survivors is quite sufficient to protect the public health of the population of Malta.

Unfortunately, the German government has not put any pressure on Malta to stop this illegal procedure. On the contrary, the Ministry of the Interior has sent a letter to the sea rescue organisations and asked them to stop their activities. In an interview with Tilo Jung, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas even justified Malta closing its ports and also asked them to refrain from sea rescue operations (Video: from 17.38 minute).

The argument that it is unfortunately not possible to save people in the Mediterranean because they could end up in difficult corona situations afterwards is absurd. The pandemic is unfortunately also being used by the German government to try by all means to stop sea rescue so that fewer refugees reach Europe alive.