The ICJ called today on Italy and Malta to cooperate to swiftly provide a place of safety for the disembarkment of the 121 migrants, likely including asylum seekers, on board the Open Arms vessel.
Open Arms rescued 123 people that left Libya and were on a situation of distress in international waters, and has been navigating seven days on the Central Mediterranean Sea in search of a place of safety for disembarkment.
Currently Italy and Malta (the nearest States) and Spain (the flag State) have not granted access to their territorial waters.
“When a boat is conducting an operation of rescue it is the duty under international law for neighbouring States to provide a place of safety,” said Massimo Frigo, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser.
“The situation on the boat, with also 30 children and two babies, is rapidly deteriorating and it is of the utmost urgency to allow for their disembarkment,” he added.
“The refusals and lack of cooperation by Italy, Malta and Spain is in contravention of their obligations under the law of the sea,” said Frigo.
“These States should open their harbours and the EU should work hard to ensure that resettlement is ensured so as to relieve pressure from them.”
Relevant provisions of international law include: UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Article 98); International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), Annex, Chapter V; International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue.
Massimo Frigo, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser, t:+41 22 979 3805 ; e: massimo.frigo(a)icj.org