Legal Update on the Captain Morgan Incident

This week aditus foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service Malta and Integra foundation filed three complaints in three different fora with respect to the situation of around 167 migrants currently being held aboard the private vessels Europa II and the Atlantis, just outside Malta’s territorial waters. The Maltese government chartered a number of private pleasure craft vessels to accommodate migrants rescued in Malta’s SAR zone in the period between the 28th and 29th April 2020 and 6th May 2020. The migrants were transferred from private and AFM vessels involved in the rescue to the chartered vessels and have remained there since the beginning of May.

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An absolute no to exploring legal ways of returning refugees!

The Government of Malta’s call on the European Commission to look into bypassing, waiving or otherwise ignoring the principle of non-refoulement should absolutely not be entertained by the European Union’s executive body. It is this fundamental principle that, for centuries, has protected the lives of millions of refugees. Setting it aside would effectively sign the death sentence for all those people who continue to run away from their homes in search of safety.

Enshrined in the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and a host of other human rights instruments, the rule strictly prohibits States from returning refugees to places where their lives are threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion and membership of a particular social group. It also protects all persons from being sent to countries where they would face serious human rights violations such as the death penalty, torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.

Yet the rule is more than a legal principle. It understands that some governments simply cannot, or refuse to protect their own citizens. In such situations, other states are called to intervene and to offer protection to persons who would otherwise be left stranded, vulnerable to terrible treatment and, at worst, killed. At its heart, the principle embodies humanity’s spirit of solidarity with one another.

It is therefore with extreme repulsion that the undersigned Maltese non-governmental organisations read of Malta’s appeal to brush this value aside. As with all state policies, migration and asylum management can never be based on an approach that tramples on the dignity and rights of persons.

We therefore strongly urge the European Commission to refrain from taking any action at all on Malta’s requests. Anything short of an absolute and clear non-engagement will inevitably result in complicity in flouting the Union’s values and making these Europe’s darkest days.

#maltapresidencylegacy #maltasummit

Press Statement of:

aditus foundation, African Media Association, Arab-Maltese Community, The Critical Institute, Integra Foundation, International Association for Refugees, JRS Malta, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrants’ Network for Equality, Moviment Graffitti, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, The People for Change Foundation, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta, SOS Malta, Spark 15, Sudanese Community in Malta.

Malta’s EU Presidency legacy: a (legal) death-sentence for refugees!

When rickety boats laden with irregular migrants reach our shores, we see the suffering and the loss of dignity etched on these people’s faces. We understand that they are caught in a web of poverty and exploitation.

We feel for those fleeing persecution and poverty, in search of safety and prosperity. And we do everything we can to provide them with the help they need, offering refuge and respite.

It would be easy to flip channels once again; to park it in someone else’s back yard. But it is not someone else’s problem.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Sixty-Eighth Session of the UN General Assembly, 2013.

Herman Grech: Prime Minister, at the beginning of the legislature you considered returning to Libya a group of immigrants. Was that a mistake?

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat: Yes.

Times Talk interview, 2015.

In the document, the Commission is called on to “examine how to interpret and apply” the legal implications of a key humanitarian rule that protects migrants from being returned to a country where they may have reason to fear persecution, the so-called non-refoulement principle.

Malta’s Presidency of the EU Council to the EU Commission, 2016.

aditus hails a victory for the right to seek asylum

aditus welcomes the Abdulle and Nur Constitutional Court Judgement as a powerful victory of the right of all persons to enjoy the fundamental human right to seek asylum.

The Court declared that in returning the applicants directly to Libya without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum in Malta, their rights to be free from torture and to have access to an effective remedy were violated.  These two rights are protected by the Maltese Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights and a number of other international and regional human rights instruments.

Our Constitutional Court clearly and strongly stressed that shoving documents in English into the faces of asylum-seekers without informing them of their rights and of the relevant procedures is simply unacceptable.  We’re very happy with this judgement because it is a reminder that human rights and their legal protection are not the prerogative of certain classes of people but are to be enjoyed by all.”

In the course of the proceedings the applicants had given vivid descriptions of the consequence of their forcible return to Libya.  They were arrested by the Libyan authorities, repeatedly tortured, sentenced without trial and eventually dumped in the desert.  The Maltese government argued that it was unaware of such atrocities happening in Libya.

Civil society has been reporting gross human rights violations at the hands of the former Libyan dictatorship for years.  Sadly, European governments chose to ignore this information and resort to measures that pushed back asylum-seekers to unsafe territories.  In this respect, the judgement’s rejection of Malta’s apparent unawareness of Libya’s treatment of sub-Sahara Africans and its embracing of reports by non-governmental organisations is a great statement.

aditus further highlights the judgement’s financial implications.  If Maltese tax payers are unhappy with paying this compensation, then they should immediately insist that the government pulls its socks up and simply stops violating the human rights of asylum-seekers and migrants.”  

Yet aditus notes that the real price for these violations was paid by the victims themselves, the applicants who suffered atrocious torture in Libya and the other Somali nationals who were forcibly deported by Malta but who were not lucky enough to survive the ordeal.