‘My Libya visits helped avert a national crisis,’ Neville Gafa insists

Neville Gafa says his visits to Libya between July 2018 and January 2020 were intended to coordinate rescue efforts by the Libyan coastguard of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea

Neville Gafa (Photo: The Malta Independent)
Neville Gafa (Photo: The Malta Independent)

Neville Gafa “coordinated” efforts to stymie migration from Libya took place between July 2018 and January 2020, the former OPM official said.

In a Facebook post in which he elaborated on the testimony he gave yesterday in front of the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry, Gafa insisted that his regular visits to Libya helped maintain strong relations between Malta and the Libyan authorities.

“All this was done in a coordinated effort between the Office of the Prime Minister, represented myself, the Armed Forces of Malta and the Libyan authorities, particularly the Libyan home affairs ministry and the Libyan coast guard,” Gafa said.

He added that in the period between July 2018 and January 2020 these coordinated operations the number of irregular migrants who could have entered Malta would have been “phenomenal”.

“From a national interest point of view, if these regular visits to Libya did not happen, the coordination between the competent authorities would not have remained strong and would not have left the desired results, a failure that would have led to a national crisis,” Gafa said.

He insisted that these efforts also helped save human lives. “At the same time, thousands of migrants, among them pregnant women and children, were saved from drowning,” Gafa said.

The former OPM official said this work was carried out in silence. “I am proud of all that I did in the interest of national security,” Gafa concluded.

On Wednesday, Gafa told the public inquiry that he used to travel to Libya often on a diplomatic passport as the prime minister’s envoy, claiming credit for averting an influx of migrants.

He said that he worked at the OPM as a person of trust.

Gafa’s covert work lifts the lid on the Maltese government’s efforts to stop migration at its source in Libya at a time when Malta was at constant loggerheads with Italy over who should take in rescued migrants.

Humanitarian NGOs were critical of the EU’s position to help beef up the Libyan coastguard so that these could intercept migrant boats within Libyan waters.

The UN deems Libya unsafe for migrants and is opposed to repatriations to the North African state.