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Merchant ship captain pleads with Malta, Italy and EU to respond to calls for help days after refugee rescue

THE captain of a merchant vessel carrying over 50 rescued refugees has warned that no European authority is responding to his calls for help as the ship runs out of food and water.

The Talia, a Lebanese commercial vessel that ships livestock, saved the lives of 52 people who were stranded inside Malta’s search-and-rescue zone last Friday evening.

Since then the ship has weathered a storm and has been bounced around by the Maltese and Italian authorities, who have each blocked it from its ports and claimed the other is responsible for the passengers’ safety.

In a video message posted online today, captain Mohammad Shaaban said the situation onboard was untenable.

“After the storm, we were in a very bad condition,” he said.

“The immigrants were on the upper deck and I moved them to deck number six, where we [keep] the animals. This place is not designed for humans.

“The immigrants have very bad health problems in general. They spent five days lost at sea and now they’re suffering a lot of pain.

“Who is responsible? Who is in charge of receiving these people for disembarkation?

“We need help because we have no more food, no more water and no more [medical supplies].

“No-one is replying to our calls. No-one is helping us. My crew is very tired. I am very tired. We cannot stay like this. We need help.

“I hope the Maltese authorities … will reply to our calls and disembark these people as soon as possible.

“We call on all to help us. Please, please, please.”

Deanna, an activist with the refugee distress hotline organisation Alarm Phone told the Star today that the Maltese, Italian and European authorities’ actions are not only immoral but illegal.

“The Talia’s crew bravely rescued 52 people who were in severe distress in the Maltese search and rescue zone, following their ethics and acting according to international law,” Deanna said. 

“Keeping them in this horrible conditions is against international law. Malta has to let the people disembark and provide them with healthcare, food, a decent shelter and to allow them to apply for asylum. It is not a choice or a political game. It is Malta’s duty.”

The Talia was still anchored in Maltese waters when the Star went to press.

Meanwhile, the 180 refugees onboard the Ocean Viking, a rescue ship operated by European NGO SOS Mediterranee, finally made it to dry land late on Monday night, 11 days after the first 67 people were saved.

Italy’s maritime authorities informed the Ocean Viking on Sunday, after ignoring five of its prior requests for a port of safety and leaving it to wait more than 24 hours for a response to its declared state of emergency on Saturday, that it would allow the rescued to come to Sicily.


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