Fifty asylum seekers have filed constitutional proceedings against the Maltese authorities, calling for an effective remedy for the alleged breach of rights they suffered in a pushback to Libya last April.
The fifty applicants, together with two siblings of two other migrants who died in the operation coordinated by Malta, are claiming that it was the state’s failure to observe international, European and local laws which resulted in the migrants suffering inhuman and degrading treatment.
All 52 applicants are claiming various breaches of human rights under the Constitution, the European Convention and the EU Charter of human rights, including the right to life, inhuman and degrading treatment, collective expulsion, as well as the right to seek asylum, to contest the pushback and a lack of effective remedy.
Back in April, AlarmPhone had alerted the Maltese authorities about a boatload of migrants who were heading to Maltese search and rescue area (SAR).
The vessel was also located by a Frontex aircraft and 24 hours later, by an AFM vessel.
Yet, it was ten hours after the vessel had entered the Maltese SAR that the AFM engaged a private fishing vessel, the Dar Al Salam 1, to rescue the migrants whose physical and psychological condition was deteriorating.
It was three days after the first alert on April 11 and 39 hours since the migrant boat had entered the Maltese SAR that the fishing vessel, described in the court application as an 'agent of state', reached them.
Once taken on board, they were totally abandoned by the crew and ordered to stay on deck, without being able to take cover from the cold or rain.
After being ‘pushed back’ to Libya, they were placed in a detention centre where they were made to suffer further inhuman and degrading treatment.
The condition of the migrants was certified by a UNHCR official whose report was annexed to the records of an inquiry into the rescue operation conducted by Magistrate Joseph Mifsud.
The migrants argued that Maltese authorities’ argument that the boat had returned to its home port, was not justified and indeed went against Malta’s international obligations to take migrants in distress to a safe port.
Their pushback resulted in a breach of rights, and therefore the applicants called on the Maltese authorities to provide an effective remedy and to liquidate damages and to place the migrants in the position they had been prior to the push back.
The case was filed against the prime minister, the home affairs minister and the commander of the Armed Forces.
Lawyers Paul Borg Olivier and Eve Borg Costanzi signed the application.
Rule of Law NGO Repubblika said it is supporting the migrants and paying for the law suit.