Activists have laid down shoes in the capital of Malta to remember the hundreds of unknown migrants who have died trying to reach Europe.
This came as part of a protest in which 47 organisations accused the Maltese government of abdicating its search and rescue responsibilities.
In a joint statement the groups said: “The Maltese government’s continued failure to uphold its search and rescue responsibilities contributes to this death toll by putting lives at risk.”
Malta Today reported that the government has ignored the calls of over 20,000 people in distress, according to the campaigners.
“Despite Minister Byron Camilleri’s claim of ‘defending our realm, government decisions to delay and avoid rescue lead directly to the loss of life at sea,” the organisations said.
Four-year-old Loujin died of thirst in September 2022 after days of being in distress in Malta’s SAR zone. Her death makes clear the consequences of our government’s actions. The murderous policy adopted by the Maltese authorities must be reversed.
In September last year Loujin, from Syria, died of dehydration after the wooden fishing vessel she was travelling on was picked up four days after it sent out distress signals. On board were refugees from Syria, Palestine and Lebanon. The boat had departed from the Lebanese coast.
At the time the NGO Moviment Graffitti, which endorsed the protests over the weekend, said that Malta’s inaction had become “a murderous pattern.”
One month later four aid groups accused Malta of breaking international law by ordering a ship to take refugees it had rescued to Egypt despite the fact that Malta was much closer and safer.
Also in 2022, Malta pushed roughly 24,600 back into Libya, a practice widely condemned for violating international law.
Refugees in Libya are tortured, suffered to human trafficking and sexual violence.
“Malta and the Mediterranean should not be a place of death but rather a place of refuge and safety. The government must reassess its approach towards migration and engage with those who are dedicated to supporting migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.”
“Until then, Malta will continue to be responsible for causing harm to those seeking a better life,” they said.