Italian Prime Minister wrong about facts of Dicotti case, Maltese goverment says

It said ‘the Italian government clearly bears full responsibility for disembarkation’ of the 171 that were rescued by the Italian coast guard last month

(Photo: Andrea Ferrando/Marine Traffic)
(Photo: Andrea Ferrando/Marine Traffic)

The Maltese government has responded to statements made by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte regarding Malta’s role in a migration dispute last month.

The case involved 171 migrants who were rescued by the Italian Navy’s vessel the Dicotti as they were headed towards Lampedusa.

Malta has maintained that the boat the migrants were travelling on as it was transitting international waters was monitored by a Maltese patrol boat. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had said that the vessel had right of passage and did not request help, but rather wanted to continue on its way.

“The Government of Malta makes reference to the inaccurate comments made by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in his report on the Diciotti case during the 35th Public Sitting of the Senate held earlier today,” read a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon. 

It reiterated that in the case of the Diciotti, the Italian government “clearly bears full responsibility” for disembarkation in accordance with the respective obligations under international and EU law.

“To set the record straight, Malta in no way reneged on its obligations under international law,” it said. “In fact in this case, contrary to what the Italian Prime Minister said, Malta offered its assistance, and it was refused.”

It said that given that contact with the vessel had been made on the high seas, Malta could not intercept the vessel with force but continued to monitor it and fulfill its “duty of care”.

“The Italian vessel intercepted the boat just outside its territorial seas exercising effective control and jurisdiction and took the migrants on board the coastguard vessels and therefore Italian territory,” the government said.

“Thus, the full obligations incumbent upon Italy under the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Geneva Convention) and the respective EU legislation. The Common European Asylum System including the Dublin Regulation kicked in at the moment that the rescued persons were taken aboard.”

In case the Italian Government insists in stating that this was a SAR case, any rescues within the Malta’s SRR should be coordinated by the competent authority and disembarkation should take place in the nearest place of safety to the event, in this case Lampedusa. If the Italian Government chooses to designate Lampedusa as not being safe, it must shoulder the burden of providing an alternative.

Malta renews its call for continued international cooperation and a stop to public statements which are false.

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