We are extremely concerned at allegations that Malta is complicit in the on-going illegal pushback to Libya of over 100 migrants. Returning migrants to Libya means returning men, women and children to severe human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention, violence and torture, inhumane living conditions, human trafficking and slavery. It is entirely unacceptable for Malta to even consider engaging in such activities in its efforts to reduce the number of arrivals of persons by sea.
Publicly available information indicates the presence of Libyan Coast Guard ships in Malta’s Search and Rescue Zone. Malta’s responsibility for persons in distress within our Search and Rescue Zone is to coordinate their rescue and ensure their disembarkation at a port of safety. As strongly reiterated by the European Union Commission and by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Libya is not a safe port for migrants. Malta’s engagement with Libya’s Coast Guard for this to pick up persons from Malta’s Search and Rescue Zone is tantamount to an illegal pushback as it will anyway result in the return of persons to a place where lives and human rights will be at risk.
The Malta Independent carried an interview on the idea of renting a quarantine ship for rescued migrants. The idea is not new: Italy has also resorted to this measure.
Read the full interview here.
“Yet we find it somewhat absurd that we have normalised the idea of forcing people to live on a ship for a number of weeks. Neil Falzon, aditus foundation Director
Let’s remember that quarantine is a form of detention and there are clear rules on how a State can detain people, even in the case of disease prevention,” he explained.
“Indefinite detention is definitely not allowed, as is detention in a place where living conditions are undignified and abysmal.”
It is beyond shameful that, once more, around 50 men and women have been stranded for days out at sea. They are being housed in miserable and unhygienic conditions on board the MV TALIA, a vessel intended for the transportation of animals. They were rescued on the explicit instructions of the Maltese authorities and are now waiting for a port of safety to be identified. Malta simply may not abdicate responsibility for people on its territory and for whom it is clearly responsible.
Whilst we fully appreciate the serious challenges posed by the arrival by sea of asylum-seekers, we underline that, as the state responsible for the search and rescue area where the rescue took place, Malta is responsible for coordinating the disembarkation of the rescued migrants in a port of safety. Furthermore, Malta human rights obligations require it to ensure that all who wish to apply for asylum in Malta are able to do so. Malta should also ensure that no one is subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, whether on board the rescuing vessel or in a country to which they are sent for disembarkation.
CC to: Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, Commissioner Helena Dalli
Dear Ms. von der Leyen,
As organisations working for an equal and inclusive Europe, we would like to raise our serious concerns regarding the lack of real reaction of EU leaders regarding police brutality against people of colour in Europe as well as institutional and structural racism, following the killing of George Floyd in the United States and ensuing solidarity protests in Europe and across the world. We were appalled by the statement by EU Commissioner Schinas which delegitimises the public outcry against police brutality and institutional racism in Europe.
On 3 June 2020, Commissioner Schinas was quoted in the Financial Times as saying that events such as the killing of African-American man George Floyd in Minneapolis, and the wave of demonstrations against it, were “not likely . . . to happen in Europe at this scale”. “I do not think that we have issues now in Europe that blatantly pertain to police brutality or issues of race transcending into our systems. But we do have an issue in Europe, which is the issue of inequalities and income distribution — making the best for everyone of what we have.”
An urgent call to states, donors and other stakeholders to promote and protect the rights of stateless persons in their COVID-19 responses
We joined 83 other human rights NGOs to make this urgent appeal to States, donors and other stakeholders…
As governments across the world confront the COVID-19 pandemic, facing deeply challenging decisions on protecting public health while averting starvation and warding off economic disaster, it is increasingly evident that in times of crisis, states are largely embracing a “citizens first” approach.
Denied nationality and deprived basic rights and welfare, the stateless were already marginalised before the crisis. They now face even greater, life-threatening marginalisation, with potentially disastrous consequences.
We, the undersigned 84 civil society actors, work on the right to nationality, non-discrimination, and statelessness around the world. We have been tracking and responding to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and state responses to it, on those whose nationality and belonging is denied or under threat. We have observed that in democratic states, measures including border closures and movement restrictions, health assistance, emergency relief and economic stimulus packages, privilege citizens and their concerns. Migrants, refugees, populations at risk of statelessness and the stateless themselves are left behind.