NGO ship Sea Watch 3 rescues migrants who experience life-threatening situations as they make their way via boat from Africa and Asia to Europe. But the Dutch government is preventing the ship to engage in additional rescue missions, which may further harm those left out at sea. According to Time of Malta, a new policy from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management has implicated Sea Watch and other rescue ships under the Dutch flag.
Officials in the Netherlands say their mandate is based on safety concerns for people aboard the ships. European countries have subjected Sea Watch to lengthy standoffs as they argue who should receive the migrants. One of the most recent standoffs occurred near Malta. Here, Maltese officials had to negotiate an agreement with other EU states to share the migrants on the ship.
Sea Watch and several of its members have critiqued the Dutch government’s new policy. They say the law masquerades as a safety measure but only further marginalises the most vulnerable of society. “The policy change implemented hastily and without a transition period for Sea-Watch, demonstrates the lengths the Dutch government is willing to go to, to hinder civil society actors from their operations—a strategy it shares with other EU member states, abusing their powers in a coordinated crackdown on Mediterranean rescue operations,” Sea Watch said to Time of Malta.
In fact, Chairman of Sea Watch Johannes Bayer said the ship meets the required safety regulations. “We have an extremely well-equipped rescue vessel that exceeds mandatory safety standards; a fact the Dutch Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate concluded in a thorough five-year inspection of our ship last summer,” he said to Times of Malta. Despite the ship’s maintenance, the Dutch government did not allow the ship to depart on its planned mission in March. Bayer said that keeping shipwrecked people at sea for prolonged periods goes against international law. And it is the legal obligation of government officials to provide a safe port without delay.