Malta says it will no longer accept migrants because of COVID-19

The government says Malta cannot guarantee rescue at sea

Malta is unable to guarantee the rescue of migrants and will not allow rescued people to disembark due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government said Thursday.

The announcement came when the armed forces rescued a group of migrants found in Malta’s search and rescue area. They are due to arrive in Malta around 12.30 on Friday morning and are being held in custody.

In a statement, the government said that no further disembarkation of migrants is permitted in Malta, regardless of whether the migrants were rescued by NGO ships or other vessels.

The announcement was made so that migrants wishing to travel to Malta are aware of the risks they face.

“It is in the interest and responsibility of these people not to endanger themselves on a risky trip to a country that is unable to offer them a safe haven,” the government said.

The decision was made in view of the risk of COVID-19 spreading and the fact that law and order forces were otherwise concerned with duties related to the containment of the virus.

It was noted that Malta had been under immense pressure over the years and saved thousands of migrants with little tangible help.

The announcement came 24 hours after Italy closed all of its ports, saying that its ports could not be considered safe in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Declaration to the European Commission

In a statement sent to the European Commission, the government said:

“Given the situation of a public health emergency resulting from the spread of the coronavirus and the current extraordinary burden on national health services, as well as the extraordinary public sector obligations to care and support for COVID-19 patients it is currently not possible to ensure the availability of a “safe place” in Maltese territory without compromising the efficiency / functionality of the national health, logistics and security structures that aim to spread the contagious disease and support and care for COVID 19 patients. “

It is currently not possible to ensure the availability of a "safe place" on Maltese territory

“Given the fact that rescued people at sea, who may also have COVID-19 contagious disease, need to be protected from all threats to their lives and to meet their primary needs, including access to basic health services, logistics and transportation ;

“Given that the Maltese authorities have already ordered the closure of the airport and ports for passenger traffic;

“Given the need to strike a proper balance between control over Maltese territory and compliance with Malta ‘s international obligations in addressing this public health emergency, including the implementation of effective measures already in place to curb the spread of contagious diseases taken into account the involvement of law enforcement officers, particularly the Maltese Armed Forces, the police and the civil protection department, whose resources are all geared towards combating the spread of this contagious disease;

“Given that, issued after the declaration of a health emergency
from the Superintendent of Public Health in the sense of the Public Health Act and in
To counter the spread of the contagious disease, appropriate and appropriate measures must be taken to avoid additional contagion risks.

It is believed that the Maltese authorities are unable to guarantee the rescue of illegal immigrants

“Therefore, given the size of these pressures, it is taken into account
that the Maltese authorities are unable to guarantee the rescue of
forbidden immigrants on board boats, ships or other ships or the availability of a “safe place” on Maltese territory for people rescued at sea. “
Reported collision at sea

In the meantime, Alarm Phone, a group that regularly announces the presence of migrant boats in the Mediterranean, asked in a tweet whether migrants were attacked by Maltese personnel at sea.

An AFM spokeswoman said when she contacted her that she had no comments to make.

However, sources later said that the group that was rescued and taken to Malta on Thursday was the same one mentioned by Alarm Phone.

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