Updated | Mali government will not help EU identify, return migrants slated for deportation

Mali government: main concern is the safety and well-being of Malians abroad • civil servants will not travel to Europe to identify migrants who have had their asylum requests rejected

Handshake between Mali foreign minister Abdoulaye Diop, on the left, and EU Commissioner for home affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos
Handshake between Mali foreign minister Abdoulaye Diop, on the left, and EU Commissioner for home affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos

The Malian government has declared that it will not help the European Union identify and return illegal Malian migrants to the country, according to Voice of America News, putting a spoke in the wheels of an attempt to remove long-term migrants who were never given asylum in EU countries.

Malta has detained 24 migrants, most of them Malian, as part of a joint EU effort to deport failed asylum seekers. But most of them, tolerated in Malta due to its inability to deport them, have since developed economic and social ties to the country.

The EU wants to curb migration by striking multi-million-euro deals, as it did with Niger earlier this month.

But in Mali, VOA reports that negotiations on facilitating migrant returns “have caused a stir, following terms of the proposed deal detailing the presence of civil servants in Europe to help authorities identify Malians who are there illegally.”

The Mali government’s main concern is the safety and well-being of Malians abroad, Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop told reporters in Bamako. He said Mali’s civil servants would not travel to Europe to identify migrants who have had their asylum requests rejected.

The EU is currently negotiating a $160 million deal with Mali to expedite the return of migrants to the African country, a deal which will provide funds for job creation and assistance in stopping smugglers. No deal has been reached, and negotiations will continue.

Authorities dragging feet on legal assistance

 

Lawyer Gianluca Cappitta, who is representing the detained migrants, told MaltaToday today that while NGOs have been granted access to where the Malians are being held, his request to speak to the group was not acceded to. 

"I am not a member of an NGO but I had made a visit on the 28th of November to speak to two of my clients. However, on Wednesday 14th December I made a fresh request to speak to the whole group after being engaged to do so. To date, my request has not yet been approved. I have an exchange of emails with the CMRU department stemming from the 14th of December until the 20th in this regard, with the last email from CMRU’s side requesting me to provide the dates of birth of my clients. I confirm that in the past two days, I have not been contacted from the Ministry or any other department to verify my claims.

"Minister Abela states that the head of the detention centre has not denied access to any lawyers. Procedurally however, I am required to get clearance from the CMRU first."

Capitta said that he contacted the CMRU for clearance to speak with the detainees, and police told him to provide the names of each individual he wanted to speak to. "I managed to obtain the names and police numbers of 20 of the detainees and provided CMRU with the details,” said Cappitta. He was then told that Andrew Seychell - the assistant police commissioner in charge of immigration – had requested that Cappitta also provide the date of birth of each individual, as well as that he specify which the first name and last name of each detainee is. 

“The authorities are clearly dragging their feet but these people have a right lawyer. They are being detained with no contact with the outside world,” he said.

Earlier this week, Carmelo Abela denied this: “I don’t have this information and as far as I know, NGOs have access to the migrants and this was confirmed by the NGOs themselves in a recent meeting.”

Abela also said that the detained people are now down to 24 from the 33 arrested last month, explaining that some ‘failed asylum seekers’ were released after providing the necessary documents and in one case a man was released after showing proof that he is a father of a small child. 

Asked when the people would be deported to Mali, Abela said that the delegation from the African country has interviewed the detainees and “we are waiting for the report by the identification mission and once the report is finalised they will then proceed.” 

More in National