Since picking up the group a month ago, the tanker has been barred from docking in Malta. But the problem is European
On 4 August, the Maersk Etienne, a chemical tanker making its way across the Mediterranean, rescued 27 migrants about 70 nautical miles north of the Libyan coast. A month later, the ship remains stranded in international waters with no country apparently willing to take in the people rescued. The Danish shipping company Maersk Tankers, which owns the vessel, told me that the rescue was coordinated by the Maltese coast guard – yet Malta refuses to let the ship into port, and other states have been unwilling to step in and help. The crew say they are now running out of food and water, and that they are worried about the mental health of their guests, among them one pregnant woman and one child.
This grim new record – Maersk believes that this is the longest that migrants have ever been held aboard a commercial ship – marks a further deterioration of humanitarian rescue at Europe’s southern frontier. The UN convention on the Law of the Sea places a duty on all ships to rescue people in distress, and bring them to a place of safety. Yet in the last few years, European governments have sought to shut off unwanted migration routes from Africa and Asia by scaling back state-run search-and-rescue operations, harassing NGO ships – and, increasingly, by refusing vessels permission to disembark.
Read more: theguardian.com