NGOs call for end to migrant pushbacks as Libyan coast guard spotted in Malta's SAR zone

"Malta’s engagement with Libya’s coast guard to pick up persons from Malta’s Search and Rescue Zone is tantamount to an illegal pushback"

Over 100 migrants are being returned to Libya after being picked up by the Libyan coast guard in the Maltese Search and Rescue Zone
Over 100 migrants are being returned to Libya after being picked up by the Libyan coast guard in the Maltese Search and Rescue Zone

Three NGOs have reiterated their call for an end to migrant pushbacks by Malta, as 100 migrants stand to be picked up by the Libyan coast guard in Malta’s Search and Rescue zone.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Aditus, Integra Foundation and the Jesuit Refugee Service,  said they were “extremely concerned” at allegations that Malta is complicit in the on-going pushback to Libya of over 100 migrants.

“Returning migrants to Libya means returning men, women and children to severe human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention, violence and torture, inhumane living conditions, human trafficking and slavery. It is entirely unacceptable for Malta to even consider engaging in such activities in its efforts to reduce the number of arrivals of persons by sea.”

The NGOs said that publicly available information indicated the presence of Libyan coast guard ships in Malta’s Search and Rescue Zone.

“Malta’s responsibility for persons in distress within our Search and Rescue Zone is to coordinate their rescue and ensure their disembarkation at a port of safety. As strongly reiterated by the European Union Commission and by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Libya is not a safe port for migrants. Malta’s engagement with Libya’s coast guard for this to pick up persons from Malta’s Search and Rescue Zone is tantamount to an illegal pushback,” they said.

Whilst urging the Maltese authorities to refrain from exposing persons to human rights violations in Libya, the NGOs also urged the European Union institutions to strengthen their assistance measures to Malta “so as to enable it to fulfil its obligations and to offer rescued persons the safety and dignity they are entitled.”

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