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Malta must stop illegal migrant pushbacks, human rights groups insist

Church joins NGOs in appeal after alleged pushback to Libya

By John Paul Cordina

April 12, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

Twenty organisations active in human rights and migrant issues insisted that Malta must stop illegally pushing back people to Libya, expressing extreme concern at yet another allegation of such activity.

The organisations spoke up after a pushback was flagged by the NGO Alarm Phone, whose hotline has become the first point of call for many who find themselves in distress on their bid to reach Europe and safety.

But a group of 83 reached neither, the NGO reported, as they were abducted by a Libyan coastguard vessel in Malta’s search-and-rescue area and taken to Libya.

Conditions for people transiting through Libya in hopes of reaching Europe have long been known to be horrific, not least in the detention camps operated by the country. Pope Francis had gone as far as comparing these camps to concentration camps with hellish conditions as he appealed on European countries to stop pushbacks to Libya in 2021.

Accordingly, the latest appeal by local organisations is endorsed by the Archdiocese of Malta, with signatories including its Justice and Peace Commission and its Migrants Commission.

The 20 signatories stressed that Libya was not a safe country, not least due to widespread and ongoing conflict.

“Furthermore, the awful situation for non-Libyan nationals living in Libya is very well-documented, including by United Nations expert observers. Human rights violations of the most egregious nature occur on a daily basis. Migrants and refugees are not safe in Libya,” they stressed.

In light of this, they insisted that Malta should refrain from returning to Libya any persons in distress at sea, including through facilitation with the Libyan authorities. They also urged Malta to immediately investigate the latest pushback allegation and to publish its findings.

The statement was issued on behalf of the following organisations:

  • aditus foundation

  • Association for Justice, Equality and Peace (AJEP)

  • Blue Door Education

  • The Critical Institute

  • Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

  • Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta)

  • Justice and Peace Commission


  • Migrants Commission, Archdiocese of Malta

  • Migrant Women Association Malta

  • Office of the Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Malta

  • Office of the Dean, Faculty for Social Wellbeing, University of Malta

  • Paulo Freire Institute Foundation

  • PEN Malta

  • Repubblika

  • SAR Malta Network

  • SPARK15

  • St Jeanne Antide Foundation

  • Victim Support Malta

  • Women’s Rights Foundation


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