Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Amnesty International denounces the Maltese government's ebb and flow policy for migrants

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Tuesday, September 8th 2020 à 15:17 | Read 419 times

Malta is violently criticised for its policy towards migrants from the Mediterranean (photo: F.Dubessy)
Malta is violently criticised for its policy towards migrants from the Mediterranean (photo: F.Dubessy)
MALTA. Amnesty International accused, Tuesday 8 September 2020 in a report entitled "Waves of impunity: Malta's violations of the rights of refugees and migrants in the Central Mediterranean", the Maltese government of "stooping to increasingly despicable and illegal tactics to evade its responsibilities towards those in need" to prevent the arrival of migrants from North Africa.

According to the NGO, "the Maltese government has resorted to dangerous and illegal measures to deal with the arrival of refugees and migrants at sea". In particular, the organisation of illegal refoulement to Libya is cited since an agreement signed between Valletta and Tripoli at the end of May 2020. "It is shameful that the EU and Italy have normalised their cooperation with Libya on border control, but sending people in danger back to Libya is anything but normal", says Elisa De Pieri, regional researcher at Amnesty International in this report. EU member states must stop helping the return of people to countries where they face unspeakable horrors," she said.
On 15 April 2020, a group of fifty-one people (including seven women and three children) were returned to Libya after being rescued in the search and rescue area of Malta by a commercial fishing boat. The Dar Al Salam 1 was tasked by the Maltese government to return these refugees and migrants who were handed over to the Libyan authorities.

Malta closed its door to migrants

The text also denounces the hijacking of boats to Italy rather than the rescue of people in distress, and the illegal detention of hundreds of people on poorly equipped ferries off Maltese waters. "Certain measures taken by the Maltese authorities may have led to criminal acts, resulting in preventable deaths, prolonged arbitrary detention and illegal returns to war-torn Libya".
Like Italy, since April 2020 Malta has closed its ports to migrants, citing the coronavirus pandemic. The Mediterranean island has received 2,161 illegal immigrants since the beginning of 2020. Amnesty International acknowledges that "the resources and efforts needed to ensure reception (...) are undoubtedly considerable for such a small country", but that this does not justify the attitude of its government, which should "designate a place of safety for those rescued under its coordination".

The twenty-seven migrants rescued at the instigation of the Maltese authorities on 4 August 2020 are still on board the Danish cargo ship the Maersk Etienne without a solution. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) consider that they "must be able to disembark immediately" while the Maltese government considers that "the situation of the Maersk Stephen is not its responsibility" but that of Denmark.

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