Libya ‘pact’: Malta facilitated return of migrants to ‘ghastly and horrific’ situation, NGOs says

Civil Society Network calls for public inquiry into Malta-Libya deal • Aditus: ‘Do we want to be a nation that treats people with such a vile disregard for their humanity and dignity?’

Malta ensured that hundreds of men, women and children were returned to a situation which the United Nations described as “ghastly and horrific”, the NGO Aditus Foundation said on a secret ‘pact’ to help Libya prevent boat migrants from reaching Maltese waters.

On Sunday, Neville Gafà told MaltaToday how he helped broker an agreement in the summer of 2018, by direct order from the Office of the Prime Minister.

Gafà said that he used to receive information of boats departing from Libya and their coordinates from the Armed Forces of Malta, before relaying them directly to the Libyan coastguard. He said he carried out his job on direct orders of the Office of the Prime Minister under Joseph Muscat.

Aditus Foundation Director Neil Falzon said that this was not an issue of a man acting alone, but of a man acting on behalf of Malta.

“The legality of this policy of death is questionable and the present government should be warned that such practices are not as innocent as Gafà seems to believe,” Falzon said.

In international law, countries are forbidden from returning asylum seekers to a country in which they would be in likely danger of persecution; but Gafà claims these were not pushbacks because Libyan authorities were taking in departing boats before they reach international waters.

Falzon spoke about how asylum seekers intercepted by the Libyan coastguard are returned to a place where men are sold as slaves, women are sexually exploited and people are sent to die in detention centres. “Beyond legality questions, we should be asking ourselves if we want to be a nation that treats people with such a vile disregard for their humanity and dignity,” he said.

Civil Society Network call for public inquiry

The activist NGO Civil Society Network has also called for a public inquiry into the secret pact between Malta and Libya to stop asylum seekers from leaving Libyan waters.

“Set up a public and independent inquiry into the ostensibly illegal agreement that was reached between the Maltese Government and the Libyan coastguard which could have led to several thousands of lives lost,” Civil Society Network (CSN) said.

Neville Gafà’s recent testimony suggests an illegal pact, resulting in a potential serious breach of international refugee law, according to CSN.

CSN said that Gafà’s statements on how he used to relay coordinates to the Libyan coastguard, suggest that the Maltese government failed to abide by its international obligations.

“Gafà appears to have done all this with the blessing of ex-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat; hence, there is a pressing need for an independent public investigation to establish the exact role of the Maltese Government and of Gafà,” the statement read.

On Sunday, former Alternattiva Demokratika chairman Arnold Cassola, also wrote to the International Criminal Court, asking them to investigate Malta’s collaboration 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.

Gafà reacted by implying that the entire EU has 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.

READ ALSO: Neville Gafà: Muscat’s loyal servant and the secret Libya migration deal

 

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