Aquarius migrant used false passport to reunite with wife

One of the migrants who was purportedly rescued by the NGO Vessel Aquarius back in August of last year has admitted to using a false passport to reunite with wife but court will not deport him

Some of the rescued migrants that were rescued by the Aquarius, which had been refused entry into both Malta and Italy (Photo: UNHCR)
Some of the rescued migrants that were rescued by the Aquarius, which had been refused entry into both Malta and Italy (Photo: UNHCR)

One of the irregular migrants who arrived in Malta aboard the rescue vessel Aquarius last August has been handed a suspended sentence after trying to leave the islands using a false passport to be reunited with his wife.

Pierre Onana Onana, 33, from Cameroon was arraigned before duty magistrate Gabriella Vella this morning, charged with possession and making use of falsified identification documents.

Inspector Darren Buhagiar, prosecuting, told the court that the accused was arrested yesterday evening at around 9pm. He had attempted to travel to France with counterfeit Italian documents. Onana was conveyed to the lockup and spoken to this morning. The man had decided not to seek legal advice and had released a statement saying that he bought the documents from two African men for €900. He swore that he did not know the documents were false, said the inspector.

Onana is one of the migrants who had been rescued by the vessel Aquarius on August 15 last year, together with the mother of his child who was subsequently relocated to France. “That’s why he wanted to go to France, but he opted to go there by illegal means,” said lawyer Charmaine Cherrett who is assisting the accused.

Dressed head to toe in camouflage gear, the accused entered a plea of guilty. The accused confirmed the plea when asked by the court.

“Unfortunately, my client went through a lot,” said the lawyer. The accused had applied for asylum and was still being processed, she said. “He met two persons who offered to help him to travel to France. In his statement he gave all the details of the persons. We aren’t saying that he didn’t break the law, far from it, but the particular circumstances was that he wanted to reunite with his family. He was separated from the mother because they are not married and the French authorities didn’t want to recognize this fact. In the circumstances I humbly plead that he is spared jail.”

Inspector Buhagiar explained to the court that the baby is still in Cameroon. “Since he is an asylum seeker there are no grounds for deportation to Cameroon or Italy.” A prison term was merited, he said.

The court, having heard submissions on punishment, condemned Onana to six months  imprisonment. But the court also said there were circumstances which warranted the suspension of his prison sentence. He was handed a six-month prison sentence which was suspended for two years.

“This time you will not go to prison for what has happened. If you commit another offence in the next two years then you will serve these six months as well.”

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