German NGO says Malta to blame for migrant deaths

German NGO Sea-Watch accuses Malta of thwarting Mediterranean migrant rescues by detaining its ship Sea-Watch 3

German NGO Sea-Watch accused Malta Tuesday of thwarting Mediterranean migrant rescues by detaining its ship, and blamed it for "preventable" deaths at sea.

"For every preventable death that occurs at sea, your government has direct responsibility," a Sea-Watch statement said.

Its ship, Sea-Watch 3 has been confined to port in Valletta since early July despite safety inspections by Dutch officials, which the German non-governmental organisation (NGO) says entitles it to fly the Dutch flag.

"Your political pressure and power plays cost the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world today," Sea-Watch, said, calling Malta's action "a conscious attempt to hinder the rescue of people in distress."

With the issue of immigration fuelling populist movements across Europe, the EU is under pressure to stem the arrival of illegal migrants, many of whom risk their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean in derelict boats.

Latest figures from the International Organisation for Migration show that 73,696 migrants have reached five EU countries via the Mediterranean so far this year, while 1,565 have died at sea.

In 2017, the IOM recorded 128,993 arrivals and 2,561 deaths.