Are Mediterranean states dreaming of a 'European Papua New Guinea' where they can lock up their boat (vom 16.08.2013),
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[16. Aug 2013]

Are Mediterranean states dreaming of a 'European Papua New Guinea' where they can lock up their boat

Press Release from Boats for People, 07. August 2013. Boats4People asks all of the states involved to renounce any attempt at prosecuting any sailor who helps to rescue any boat-people.

On 5th August 2013 at around 1a.m, 46.6 nautical miles from Libya and 140 nautical miles from Malta, the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Salamis rescues 102 boat-people. This intervention follows Italy's instructions to assist their vessel in distress. The Salamis continues towards Malta but the army stops it 24 nautical miles from the island. Malta orders the shipping company and the captain of the Salamis[1] to return to Khoms, the vessel's last port of call and the closest port to the site of the rescue, to disembark the boat-people. The captain refuses and calls for Malta and Italy to accept the migrants, four of whom are pregnant women requiring medical assistance[2].

On August the 6th 2013, the :: European Commission (EC) orders Malta to allow the migrants to disembark in response to the urgent humanitarian needs of the situation, irrespective of the conflict over responsibility for the boat-people's search and rescue. The EC recently reminded Malta its obligations with regard to the right to asylum, and in particular the principle of non-refoulement, when the island expressed its intention to push back migrants who had just arrived on its shores[3].

The fate of the boat-people of the Salamis is not an isolated case. According to :: several press articles, during the same night of the 4th to 5th August, a Turkish boat, the Adakent, followed Italian orders by saving 96 boat-people in the zone designated as the Libyan "Search and Rescue" (SAR) area and disembarking them in Tripoli. On June the 29th 2013, an Italian oil rig rescued 76 Eritreans and returned them to Libya. They were then detained in the Sibrata Mentega Delila camp in Tripoli where conditions are notoriously inhumane. In May 2012, two commercial vessels also assisted boat-people along the Libyan coast and disembarked the survivors in Tripoli[4] once again following instructions from Rome.

These events recall the announcement made by Australia on July the 19th 2013 that it would no longer accept boat-people and would push them back or return them to Papua New Guinea "where they will remain even if their [asylum claim] is accepted"[5]. Are the Mediterranean states in search of a "European Papua New Guinea" where they can offload the boat-people?

Boats4People notes:

We demand:

We ask for the notion of a "safe port" to be redefined, so that its interpretation is not limited to the immediate physical security of the boat-people but takes into account the risks of refoulement and inhumane and degrading treatment to which the disembarked persons may be exposed.

Boats4People wishes to express its solidarity with the captain of the Salamis, and asks all of the states involved to renounce any attempt at prosecuting the former or any other sailor who helps to rescue any boat-people.

Bamako, Rabat, Tunis, Rome, Paris, Tuesday, August the 7th 2013

Press contact: coord (at)


[1] The text of the letter is available online: :: p. 1 and :: p. 2

[2] For more information, consult "The Times of Malta" dossier :: available online

[3] EC, Malta considering push-backs: statement by Home Affairs Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, 9thJuly 2013 :: available online

[4] La Repubblica, Almeno dieci morti nel Canale di Sicilia. Superstite lancia l'allarme dalle coste libiche, 26th May 2012 :: available online

[5] Rue89, L'Australie renvoie son premier boat-people par avion, 1st August 2013 :: available online

[6] For more information, consult the report compiled by FIDH, Migreurop and JSFM entitled "Libya: The hounding of migrants must stop", November 2012 :: available online

[7] Ruling of the Agrigente court, 7th October 2009 :: available online

[8] ECHR, Hirsi Jamaa & others autres c. Italie, 23 février 2012 :: available on line

Source ::