Gafà reacts to ICC complaint on Libya migration deal: ‘Cassola should report EU commissioner as well’

Former Green Party chairman says ICC should investigate Malta collaboration with Libyan coastguard to prevent asylum seekers from leaving Libya

Former AD chairperson and MEP candidate Arnold Cassola
Former AD chairperson and MEP candidate Arnold Cassola

The former OPM official who assisted the Libyan coastguard to locate migrant departures, has defended himself from accusations of abetting a criminal act.

On Sunday, former Green Party chairperson Arnold Cassola announced he had filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court to investigate Neville Gafà’s role in a possible act of refoulement of migrants.

Former OPM employee Neville Gafá told MaltaToday how he helped to broker an arrangement with the Libyan coastguard and interior ministry to stop migrant boats before exiting Libyan waters. Between July 2018 and January 2019 alone, around 53 migrant boats were prevented from reaching Malta’s search and rescue area in this way.

READ ALSO: Neville Gafà reveals controversial secret migration pact with Libya

The former Green Party chairman told the criminal court that if such claims were true, there would be a violation of basic human rights and a serious breach in international law. “If there were grounds for such breach, I ask you to investigate Neville Gafá and the former Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, who allegedly entrusted Gafá with carrying out such breach,” Cassola said in his complaint to the ICC.

But Gafà reacted on Facebook implying that the entire European Union bloc had engaged in acts of refoulement.

“Have you ever heard of Operation Sophia? Do you know what was the scope of Operation Sophia?” he said of the EU naval operation set up in 2015 to supplant Italy’s Mare Nostrum refugee rescue mission. The operation has now been replaced by a naval initiative to prevent arms smuggling to Libya.

“Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat already declared that ‘If the new naval operation creates a pull factor, that is to say the ships attract migrants, the mission will be stopped.’ Dr. Cassola, what will your position be if and when the EU will stop also the new naval operation? Will you be writing to the International Criminal Court to investigate Mr. Joseph Borrell in preventing asylum seekers from leaving Libya?”

Gafà said Austria and Hungary had opposed Operation Sophia over claims it would ferry migrants from Libya, to Europe. “Will you be writing to the International Criminal Court to investigate Austria and Hungary accordingly? As a Maltese citizen, would you have accepted and felt comfortable if all those thousands of migrants would have reached Maltese shores? Which position would you've taken in such circumstances?”

He ended his missive with the nationalistic slogan ‘Malta l-Ewwel u Qabel Kollox’ (Malta first and foremost).


In his comments to MaltaToday on Sunday, Gafá said that he helped in averting a national crisis, while defending his actions and insisting that this was not a pushback because boats were intercepted in Libyan waters by the Libyan coastguard.

Gafá also denied that Libyan authorities had asked for something in return, insisting that there was an obligation form their part to repay Malta’s decision to take in Libyan patients injured during fighting in 2014.  

Neville Gafà was employed in the Office of the Prime Minister on a person of trust basis by Joseph Muscat but resigned last month after Robert Abela became Prime Minister.