A deal between Malta and Libya for a migration management project refers to documents that the government now says do not exist.

Three people, including former prisons chief Alexander Dalli, are engaged on a person-of-trust basis to operate Malta’s end of its agreement.

But while a Memorandum of Understanding the two countries signed in 2020 states that details about the migration centres and their financing are listed in annexed documents, the government claims it has no such records.

The MoU was for the creation of two coordination centres – one in Valletta and another in Tripoli – that were to start operating as of July that year.

These centres would be tasked with liaising between themselves and “offer the necessary support relating to combatting illegal immigration in Libya and the Mediterranean region”.

Signed by then president of the presidential council Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj and Prime Minister Robert Abela, the MoU laid down the operation of the centres.

They would be manned by six officials: three in Malta (two appointed by the Maltese government and one by the Libyan Government of National Accord), and three in Tripoli (two appointed by the Libyan Government of National Accord and one appointed by the Maltese government).

'No annexes exist'

The MoU states that the “Maltese government will finance in full both these centres (see annex A)”. When Times of Malta requested the annex, it was informed that no such annex existed.

The same MoU states that another annex “shall be prepared” to “indicate the locations of work for both centres in Tripoli and in Malta, and the points of contact. The annex will be considered as an integral part of this memorandum.”

Again, Times of Malta was informed, through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, that “no annexes exist”.

The contracts of three officials working on the project were made available, following a convoluted process that included FOI requests.

Former prisons director Alex Dalli pictured with Prime Minister Robert Abela in 2020. Photo: DOIFormer prisons director Alex Dalli pictured with Prime Minister Robert Abela in 2020. Photo: DOI

Dalli, who is engaged as an envoy for services to the Home Affairs Ministry, is entitled to at least €97,490, according to his current contract that describes him as a person of trust.

This contract was signed less than four months after a previous agreement that had entitled him to more than €96,600 and did not specify that he was a person of trust.

Despite the latest contract being dated April 2022, eight months later, Home Affairs minister Byron Camilleri tabled in parliament the expired contract dated December 2021.

According to the first, one-year agreement signed in December 2021, Dalli received a yearly salary of €36,794. Additionally, as an officer serving overseas, he was entitled to a yearly adjustment allowance of €57,717 or €64,130 if accompanied by a spouse. He was also entitled to €1,800 in communication allowance and €300 in expense allowance.

In the second agreement, signed soon after the 2022 general election, his basic pay increased to €37,590 and he was also given a cash payment of €87. The new contract also noted that he was being engaged on a person-of-trust basis. His allowances entitlements remained the same.

Separate agreements, acquired through FOI requests, show there are at least two other people engaged on a person-of-trust basis as coordinators with the Malta-Libya Coordination Centre.

Patrick Barbara and Anthony Zammit were both employed for a year in April 2022 for €29,625 (maximum scale 7) and are entitled to a disturbance allowance of €2,000 and a mobile phone allowance of €815 yearly.

All three officials’ contracts were renewed this year.

Trickle of information

The information and contracts of engagement were provided to Times of Malta by the local authorities over a period of four months.

The government was first asked for an update on the migration coordination centres at the beginning of February.

Among other things, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Home Affairs Ministry were asked for a copy of the annexes mentioned in the MOU and the points of contact for each centre.

Times of Malta also asked for the contract of employment or secondment documentation of the officials working at both centres.

Ten days later, we were told that a coordination centre emerging from the provisions of the MoU started operating from Malta in July of the same year, with representatives from both countries.

Two retired Maltese officials, together with a representative of the Interior Ministry of the Libyan Government. operated from the coordination centre in Malta. Last January, a coordination centre was also formally inaugurated in Tajoura, Libya, a spokesperson for the Home Affairs Ministry said.

“The financial contribution is administered by both countries. Such operations are based on the same standard practices adopted by the EU and other international institutions in Libya. The tasks of the coordination centre are in line with the objectives outlined in the MoU, which was tabled in parliament,” he said.

Despite a reminder a month later, the government did not provide any annex or contract of employment.

On March 27, Times of Malta requested copies of all annexes attached to the MoU, and contracts of employment of the officials working at the Libya and Malta centres, through FOI requests.

The first request was refused by the OPM and Foreign Affairs Ministry following a reminder one month later as the “document tabled in parliament on June 3, 2020, is final and no annexes exist”.

This same request was however accepted by the Home Affairs Ministry. But the documents were never sent to Times of Malta, and following a complaint on May 22, we were told the request had been “accepted erroneously”.

The second request – that for the contract of employment of the officials working at the centres – was accepted in part, with the authorities claiming that the contract of Dalli was already in the public domain, providing a link to the document tabled in parliament.

Considering that the link led to a document valid only until December 2022, Times of Malta filed a complaint requesting a copy of the document extending the agreement.

The process to acquire the documents was further delayed and, on June 2, we were told that the applicable fee had been revised and the document will be provided for €0. The newspaper never requested a revised fee, and following a reminder for the document, Dalli’s agreements were sent on June 14.

This is where it transpired that the document tabled in parliament by Camilleri had been superseded.

Lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia helped with the FOI process as part of a legal support programme for journalists by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation.

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