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NGOs tell government: illegal pushbacks will return migrants to their death

Muscat’s talks on migration ‘litmus test’ for government and nation: ‘we need to avert the temptation to consider only our ‘national interest’ and to remember that we have much wider moral and legal obligations.’

Matthew Vella
9 July 2013, 12:00am
(Photo: Glen Attard)
(Photo: Glen Attard)

Refugee rights' groups and other humanitarian NGOs have called on the government to reject any consideration it might have for the refoulement - "pushbacks" - of some 102 asylum seekers who were taken in by the Maltese armed forces earlier today.

In a statement, eleven NGOs expressed their collective shock at comments by prime minister Joseph Muscat that government was considering sending back to Libya the group of 102 migrants, which included 41 women and two babies.

"All are Somali, which means they could very well need protection," Katrine Camilleri, director of Jesuit Refugee Service, said.

The NGOs said the government must not return the migrants who arrived in Malta this morning to Libya. "There are two very good reasons why: the first is that the migrants will be subjected to torture and inhumane treatment if returned. And the second is that such an action would be a blatant violation of our international legal obligations."

"We do not deny that the migrant issue is a challenge for the Maltese government to tackle. However, it is unacceptable to use innocent people to score points and to bargain, in a bid to put Malta in a stronger position at the European burden-sharing table," Camilleri said.

The NGOs - aditus foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), Migrant's Network for Equality, SOS Malta, Malta Emigrants' Commission, KOPIN, Integra Foundation, Foundation for Shelter and Support of Migrants, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, Koperativa Kumerc Gust and People for Change Foundation - also said that the migrants will face gross human rights abuses if returned to Libya.

"Those we met detailed the abuses they faced, especially in detention, among them brutal beatings and shootings, which left some permanently disabled. Those who return to Libya after attempting to reach Europe are singled out for especially harsh punishment. These claims are backed by the research of solid human rights organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch."

Last week, the Court of Appeal ruled that the forced return of two Somali nationals to Libya in 2004 violated their human rights. Of the six migrants who were returned then, only two made it back to Malta. The rest died in the desert when they were deported to the Libyan border after months of imprisonment in terrible conditions.

"This is a litmus test for us not only as a government but as a nation: we need to avert the temptation to consider only our 'national interest' and to remember that we have much wider moral and legal obligations. Only on Monday, in Lampedusa, Pope Francis called us to a change of heart towards 'these brothers and sisters of ours trying to escape difficult situations to find some serenity and peace' and who instead find death. We call on the Maltese government not to send people back to torture and possibly even death."
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
basic_facts I don't believe we are sending them to their deaths, I think that maybe we a harbouring people that want an easy way out.
Where the Eritreans pushed back to their death some years ago when the Nationalist government removed them? What is good for the goose is bad for the gander?
Do NGOs remember when the Nationalist government sent the Eritreans back to hell in Eritrea some years ago?
What a joke. Returning them to their deaths - Libya as far as one can tell is a Western ally now that Nato and the EU and the US have had their way and removed Gaddafi. Il-Porte d'inferi have opened up against Malta. And the minions of Satan are mustering their powers and Malta is under attack. The UN/IMF/EU all serve the same master - and it is not Jesus Christ. All these NGO's are nothing but paid fronts of the same masters - Malta needs to kick them out - these fifth columns are here to deceive. "Enoch Powell was right in his prediction of Islamification and take-over. Muslims are peaceful when represented in small numbers. By the time their numbers swell to 10 percent of the population, they began demanding special rights, considerations, halal meats, burkhas, etc. The only reason they want political asylum in Western nations is for the free welfare benefits. Statistics show 75% of female Muslims never work. They become one of four wives allowed by Islam. UK government treats them as single mothers European governments are not forcing mosques to report marriages conducted under Sharia law. Muslim men "marry" their four wives before immigrating to Europe & America. And you wonder why Western nations are going broke? The elite are pushing for a borderless, one world government! We are paying the price for immigration quotas dictated by the UN in Brussels. Idly watching as the U.S. Department of State relocates millions of Muslims to cities like Detroit MI, Minneapolis MN, Shelby TN, and Columbus, OH. Citizens and locals have no voice, or vote in the matter. UN dictates immigration quotas for the 27 member nations of the European Union. Our national sovereignty has been hijacked by the current leaders elected into office." And that in a nutshell is what is behind all this.
roderick degiorgio
Our shock was when we saw all of you backing migrants.This country is to small,So if all of you have a solution tell the GOV.How can we have legal obligations,on something illegal.
christine scerri
Rachel Roberts
NGOs tell government..... OR Simon tells NGOs to tell Government ????? PUSHBACK SIMON..... he works UNDERCOVER and not in the national interest!
I read several times the comments of Katrine Camilleri et al but nowhere did I see a solution. It means the pro-immigration lobby has no solution but to criticise the government. This is not dialogue, it's not debate. Please do say where the government is wrong, but please be intelligent enough to state what your solution is. Apparently you have absolutely none. If you come up with a solution, please give it to government immediately. So far we readers think that you are very good at talking but poor at doing.