German NGO files request over Tunisian migrants

German non-governmental organisation Sea Eye filed a court request in Malta on Friday September 6th calling on the government there to accept 13 Tunisian migrants who it said had been saved from a sinking boat in Malta’s search and rescue zone.

NGO Sea Eye, which operates the rescue ship Alan Kurdi, asked that Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat respect international law and order the immediate disembarkation of the migrants.

Sea Eye said the migrants were rescued by the Alan Kurdi on August 31st from a boat which was fast taking in water.

Sea-Eye said in its written deposition that “there were 13 men on board and they were in a critical condition because the boat was sinking with the potential danger that they drown. No one knew whether the men could swim and there were no life vests on board, so a decision was taken to immediately rescue the men and transfer them onto the boats,” It said the Maltese authorities had told them they did not consider it to be a rescue operation, but rather the transfer of individuals from one boat to another.

The Maltese authorities ordered the Alan Kurdi not to take anyone on board, but the rescue operation had already taken place when the demand arrived.

The NGO said the Maltese authorities had accused the Alan Kurdi of taking the unilateral decision to intercept a boat that was sailing towards its planned destination — the Italian island of Lampedusa. They therefore refused to assist and told the Alan Kurdi to establish contact with its flagged state — Germany.

Sea-Eye insisted it had followed the established conventions, These define a rescue as “an operation to retrieve persons in distress, provide for their initial medical or other needs and deliver them to a place of safety”.