Updated | Maltese human rights groups join call for Spain not to send 12 rescued migrants back to Libya

12 peope rescued by a Spanish fishing boat on Friday are stranded at sea while Spain negotiates their return to Libya • Migrant rescue groups want Malta and Italy to open their ports, instead

The alliance said that Libya is not a safe harbour and never signed the Geneva Convention on Refugee Status
The alliance said that Libya is not a safe harbour and never signed the Geneva Convention on Refugee Status

Maltese human rights groups are “strongly urging” Malta, Italy and Spain not to send 12 migrants rescued by a Spanish fishing boat back to Libya.

The 14 Maltese NGOs have joined the call made by United4Med, an alliance between Open Arms, Sea Watch and Mediterranea, condemning the negotiations between Spain and Libya.

The groups insisted that sending the migrants back to the north African state was a violation of international law.

The NGOs have called for the immediate disembarkation of the migrants at a place of safety. “We also call on the European Union institutions to ensure respect of these core values, and of the obligations boldly enshrined in the European Union Treaties and other legislation.”

The Maltese NGOs said they were extremely concerned with ongoing negotiations between EU member states and Libya on the matter.

“Returning rescued migrants and refugees to Libya would expose them to serious human rights violations, which is a serious violation of international and European law,” the NGOs said.

On Friday 12 migrants were recused by the Spanish fishing boat Nuestra Madre de Lorto and are stranded at sea as Spain negotiates their return to Libya.

On Tuesday, the United4Med, alliance condemned the negotiations between European countries and Libya to return rescued individuals back to the north African state, insisting this would be a violation of international law and "a step toward neglecting human rights at sea"

The alliance said that Libya is not a safe harbour and never signed the Geneva Convention that protects refugee rights.

“The EU and its member states have the obligation not to authorise the disembarkation of people in a country where there have been repeated systematic violations of human rights, torture and trafficking of people,” the alliance said.

The UNHCR has also issued a "non-return advisory" for Libya, considering this country, together with Yemen, as a place where vulnerable people cannot be returned back to.

The alliance said Spain should ask Italy and Malta to open their ports and comply with international conventions they are a party to.
It also said that all governments should defend the right to life above all, instead of blaming those who do defend it.

“We demand that the situation of Nuestra Madre de Loreto will be solved as quickly as possible for the safety and well-being of the rescued people and the crew. We also express public support and compliance with the behaviour of the fishermen of the vessel. Their refusal to bring these people back to Libya means that this case will not represent a dangerous precedent for similar situations in the future.”

Simultaneously, the Maltese government issued a statement on Monday saying that the last group of migrants that had disembarked in Malta from the Aquarius, and other vessels in August, had departed Malta for relocation in Germany.

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