German NGO rescue vessel 'Sea-Watch 3' berthing in the harbor of Valetta, Malta | Credit: EPA/SEA WATCH
German NGO rescue vessel 'Sea-Watch 3' berthing in the harbor of Valetta, Malta | Credit: EPA/SEA WATCH

As a consequence of government policies in Italy and Malta, NGO rescue vessels are no longer operating in the Mediterranean, according to reports by The Guardian.

Since 26 August, no NGO rescue vessel has operated in the Mediterranean, according to a report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) revealed by British daily The Guardian. It said a clampdown by the Italian and Maltese governments is putting the lives of thousands of migrants at risk. 

The report said that out of the 10 NGO rescue boats in the Mediterranean in recent weeks, three are being detained in Malta in a dispute over flag registration. Others have reportedly left the region because Italy and Malta closed their ports to them.

High risk of shipwrecks 

The Guardian said many people seeking asylum are continuing to depart from North Africa in an attempt to reach Europe, but without NGO assistance, shipwrecks are likely to rise dramatically. It said when the same situation occurred from 28 June to 8 July, an estimated over 300 migrants drowned. 

According to the IOM, 2,383 migrants died in the Mediterranean in 2017, with over 100,000 registered arrivals of migrants or asylum seekers in Italy. 

In the first eight months of 2018, the number of victims has fallen to 1,130, but there have only been 20,319 arrivals thus far. 

Accusations against Italy 

In recent days, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet announced in Geneva that UN personnel would be sent to Italy, and that the Italian government has denied entry to NGO rescue ships. "This type of political behavior and other recent developments have devastating consequences for many already vulnerable people. Even though the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean has gone down, the death rate for those who undertook the crossing in the first six months of the year was higher than in the past," she said.  

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