Neville Gafà claims migration problem 'exploded' after his interventions in Libya ceased

Former OPM official Neville Gafà insists migration issue can only be managed through coordination with Libya, as used to happen under Joseph Muscat

Former OPM official Neville Gafà made his comments in an interview with Illum on Sunday
Former OPM official Neville Gafà made his comments in an interview with Illum on Sunday

Neville Gafà has said that the problem of irregular migration has worsened since his coordination role with Libyan authorities ceased in January.

The former OPM official insisted, in an interview with sister newspaper Illum today, that the migration issue could only be solved through discussions with Libya, as used to happen under Joseph Muscat's administration.

After Robert Abela replaced Muscat as prime minister at the start of the year, Gafà had resigned from his OPM role.

Gafà told the newspaper that coordination with Libyan authorities had stopped at that point, resulting in the irregular migration problem "exploding."

"When I was involved, I would travel frequently [to Libya] and the situation was under control. Since January, there's been chaos (rebus)," he said.

Gafà stressed that the issue could only be solved through Libya's involvement. "The problem can be solved from Libya. It is useles to cry and whine on Facebook," he said, in an apparent reference to recent posts on the social network by Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo.

"The problem is not solved by speaking with the [Pope] in the Vatican or with the EU... by crying and whining. Where is the problem coming from? From Libya. Otherwise the problem won't be solved."

In April, Gafà, who was testifying under oath before magistrate Joe Mifsud in the criminal complaint on migrant rescues filed by NGO Repubblika, said that he had coordiated the pushback of 51 migrants on Easter weekend.

The instructions to do, Gafà said, had come from the Prime Minister's office.

Abela later said that Gafà had been called in by the Maltese government to get in contact with his Libyan sources “in an effort to save lives”.

Gafà had previously courted controversy when he was implicated in a medical visas racket involving Libyan patients four years ago, and subsequently for having visited Libya in a secret mission as the Maltese government’s special envoy.

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

In testimony he had given in front of the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry in February, Gafà had claimed his visits to Libya had averted a national crisis which could have been brought on by the number of irregular migrants which would have entered Malta.