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Migrants would rather die than return to Libya
Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta) launches publication documenting the life of asylum seekers in Libya.
3 February 2014, 12:00am
Asylum seekers should not be returned to Libya for any reason whatsoever because their safety, life and freedom are at risk, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) said.
JRS explained that if asylum seekers are pushed back to Libya "they have virtually no chance at all of getting protection, even now that the Gaddafi regime has collapsed."
This is the unequivocal conclusion of 'Beyond Imagination', a JRS publication documenting the experiences of asylum seekers arriving in Malta through Libya, launched today.
"Through this publication we wanted to highlight the consequences of return to Libya for asylum seekers, by bringing to light the stories we hear repeatedly when they arrive in Malta. Most have suffered horrific abuse - including indefinite detention in miserable conditions, beatings, rape and other forms of sexual abuse - and are denied the possibility of obtaining any kind of protection," JRS Malta Director Katrine Camilleri said.
JRS reiterated its call to government to refrain from actions that will result, directly or indirectly, in the return of migrants to Libya until the situation there has drastically improved and the Libyan government puts in place eﬀective measures to safeguard human rights and guarantee access to protection in practice.
"While immigration control is entirely legitimate, we are not permitted to secure our borders at the cost of other people's lives and safety," Camilleri said.
Last year, the European Court of Human Rights blocked the government's attempt to push back around 50 asylum seekers to Libya. In recent months, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has insisted that Libya is a key partner in Europe's efforts to control migration.
The JRS publication is based on interviews with asylum seekers from Eritrea and Somalia. In the words of one of them, life for Sub-Saharan African asylum seekers in Libya is "beyond imagination".
The booklet shows that conditions in Libya are so bad that "dying is preferable to returning." All asylum seekers which were interviewed described a life of constant fear and insecurity - a life of total powerlessness shaped by forces beyond their control, where the only option they have is to risk their lives in search of protection elsewhere.
JRS Malta stressed that any talk of Libya being part of the solution to the challenges presented by irregular immigration has to be seen in the light of conditions on the ground there.
While any state clearly has the right to control immigration, this control has to be exercised within the parameters set by Malta's obligations under human rights law, JRS said.
"These obligations bind us to ensure that no one is returned to a country where they will face serious violations of their rights and where they are unable to obtain protection if they need it."
Copies of 'Beyond Imagination', can be obtained by contacting JRS Malta at email@example.com or 21442751.
Jurgen Balzan joined MaltaToday in 2011, specialising in politics, foreig...