German sea rescue NGO Sea-Watch has filed a judicial protest against the government, which continues to ground the NGO’s reconnaissance aircraft. 

In a statement issued on Friday, the NGO slammed Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for a series of “hypocritical” tweets which expressed concern about escalating conflict in Libya, noting that Dr Muscat was also blocking migrant rescues by confiscating vessels and aircraft belonging to NGOs.

“While diplomats are evacuated by sea, thousands fleeing war and violence are deserted by the European Union again. Those who speak of human rights, should act as well,” said Sea-Watch member Johannes Bayer.

“One cannot turn a blind eye and pretend it is not happening more actively, than Joseph Muscat is right now,” he added. “Joseph Muscat should save his hypocritical tweets when he is not ready to act accordingly.”

The NGO has now filed a judicial protest over authorities’ decision to ground its Moonbird aircraft. The plane, which the NGO jointly operates with the Swiss Humanitarian Pilots Initiative, has been involved in the rescue of 20,000 people, Sea-Watch has previously said.

Sea-Watch had announced that the Moonbird had been blocked early in July. But in its statement on Friday, the NGO said that the plane had been denied permission to fly on May 25. 

With attempts to resolve the situation through back channels have failed, the NGO has now turned to the courts.

READ: Stop causing mass graves - NGO to government  

“The case of Moonbird shows that Malta not only shuts off sea rescue but also wants to hide the disastrous consequences of this blockade from the eyes of the world,” the NGO said.

Tensions in Libya

Tensions in Tripoli boiled over earlier this week, with the city’s airport shut down, Maltese nationals living there calling for evacuation and the government issuing a travel warning advising people to avoid the north African country. A UN-brokered ceasefire has since been agreed to by warring factions.

In a tweet, Dr Muscat had expressed “deep apprehension” about the situation in Libya and said that the international community “cannot turn a blind eye and pretend it is not happening”.

Those words of concern infuriated Sea-Watch activists, who have been unable to conduct sea rescue missions since the start of July when their vessel, as well as two others belonging to two other NGOs, was prevented from leaving Maltese ports.

Transport Malta says it has concerns about the registration of migrant rescue vessels which it must clear up before they can be allowed to leave the port.

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