Returning irregular migrants to Libya or failing to rescue them from sinking boats would put them at serious risk of inhuman and degrading treatment and could threaten their very lives, nine non-governmental organisations said in a statement.
The Aditus foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), Migrant’s Network for Equality, SOS Malta, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, KOPIN, Integra Foundation, Foundation for Shelter and Support of Migrants, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity referred to a Court of Appeal ruling last week deciding that the forced return of two Somali nationals to Libya in 2004 violated their human rights.
“The ruling underscores the unacceptable nature of the government’s declaration that Malta does not exclude returning migrants to Libya when it is tragically clear from countless reports that they will be in serious danger if returned.”
The judgement stressed that governments could not send people to a country where there was a real risk that they would face serious harm and claim they were ignorant of the dangers, when these were so well documented by credible international organisations.
“As the court makes clear, every single person, whether or not she enters the country legally, must be protected from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, for the simple reason that she is a human being and has fundamental rights that cannot be denied.
“The judgment illustrates that failure to offer this protection can have devastating consequences: of the six migrants returned to Libya in 2004 only two made it back to Malta. The rest died in the desert when they were deported to the Libyan border after months of imprisonment in terrible conditions.”
The NGOs said that while they supported Malta’s calls for increased responsibility sharing in migration issues, they called on the government to publicly commit to ensuring full respect for the life of migrants who needed protection and for Malta’s international obligations.