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.
We strongly urge Malta to refrain at once from pursuing any activity that results in persons being exposed to serious human rights violations in Libya.
We join the Maltese authorities in urging the European Union institutions to strengthen their assistance measures to Malta so as to enable it to fulfil its obligations and to offer rescued persons the safety and dignity they are entitled to.
aditus foundation, Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta)