Malta accused of coordinating criminal pushback of migrants by NGO group
- Four humanitarian NGOs have accused Malta of coordinating a “criminal mass pushback’ of 500 migrants to prison in Libya straight from Malta’s own search and rescue area.
- The NGOs behind the accusation are Alarm Phone, Sea-Watch, Mediterranea Saving Humans and EMERGENCY.
- The pushback was allegedly carried out by Malta armed forces in coordination with the Libyan coastguard.
- Migrants were reportedly returned to inhumane conditions where they would face widespread abuse and exploitation.
Allegations of Criminal Mass Pushback of Migrants
The humanitarian NGOs that deal with the rescue of irregular migrants in the Mediterranean Sea have accused Malta of coordinating a “criminal mass pushback’ of 500 migrants to prison in Libya straight from Malta’s own search and rescue area.
The Alarm Phone, Sea-Watch, Mediterranea Saving Humans and EMERGENCY have jointly stated that the pushback was conducted by Maltese armed forces in collaboration with the Libyan coastguard. The migrants were returned to inhumane conditions where they would face widespread abuse and exploitation.
Maltese Authorities Have Denied the Accusations
The NGOs claim that the migrants were intercepted by the Maltese military within Malta’s own search-and-rescue area, in violation of international refugee conventions. Maltese authorities have denied the accusations and have countered that the migrants were not in Malta’s search and rescue area, but were instead in Libya’s zone.
The Maltese government also added that their military forces have been fully cooperative with the Libyan coastguard during the operations and the pushback of migrants was carried out according to international and national law.
Calls for Investigation
The human rights organizations that have made these allegations have called for an investigation into Malta’s activities, highlighting potential human rights breaches. They demand access to the recorded materials of the operations that led to the evacuation of migrants to guarantee facts. The European agencies are also urged to take prompt action against forced returns of migrants to conflict zones.
The accusations made by these Humanitarian NGOs against the Maltese government are extremely serious. The pushback of migrants, if proven true, would amount to a violation of international refugee conventions and Malta’s human rights obligations. The EU and other international organizations have been called upon to investigate and respond to this issue proactively.
The Maltese government has denied these allegations and maintains that they acted within the law while the NGOs oppose this assertion. Regardless of which side is right, it is crucial that humanitarian standards be maintained in situations like these and that migrants not be pushed back to situations of exploitation and abuse.