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Court & Police
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Pushbacks suspended as European Court demands explanation from Malta
Government has until 30 July to inform European Court whether it considered all claims for protection from migrants.
9 July 2013, 12:00am
The Maltese government has until 30 July to inform the European Court of Human Rights whether it considered the claims of some 45 migrants who were scheduled to be deported to Libya without taking their request for asylum.
In a temporary measure taken by the Strasbourg court, the government was stopped in its tracks from flying two planeloads of Somali asylum seekers to Mitiga airport, Libya, tonight after they had been rescued and brought to shore by the Armed Forces of Malta.
The court, which has already declared pushbacks of asylum seekers to be illegal, gave Malta until the end of the month to state whether the government considered each applicant's claim that they will be exposed to inhuman treatment if returned to Libya, and what measures it will be taking to ensure each applicant's assessment and access to proceedings before the European Court.
The European Court's stop to the controversial pushback, which prime minister Joseph Muscat stood by in an address to the House of Representatives, came on an application by two lawyers who filed an application under Article 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In response, the Court accepted the request, under Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court, to stop the expulsion of the asylum seekers to Libya for the duration of the proceedings before the Court.
102 persons were intercepted by an AFM patrol boat at 3:08am on 9 July, but around 49 single men were held at the police general headquarters were they were scheduled for deportation on two Air Malta flights to Mitiga.
NGOs were refused access to the police depot to give the migrants information about their rights.
Due to the fact that none of the migrants were being given any legal assistance, the Jesuit Refugee Service and the People for Change Foundation requested interim measures against the government, as a contracting state to the European Convention of Human Rights.
The two groups said the removal of the migrants would be breach in of the Convention, citing the principles of the case Hirsi Jamaa verses Italy, of 23 February 2013, in which the Court concluded that the return of the applicants to Libya amounted to a violation of the Convention.
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