Two Somali men have been awarded compensation of €10,000 each after the Constitutional Court found that they were forcibly repatriated to Libya from Malta and had not been given the opportunity for asylum

The case was instituted by Abdul Hakim Hassan Abdulle and Kasin Ibrahim Nur after they managed to endure torture in a Libyan jail and abandonment in the Sahara Desert before returning to Malta.

They filed their application against the Minister for Justice and Home Affairs  and the Principal Immigration Officer.

The court heard that Abdulle had left Somalia in 2004 following the persecution of his Madigan tribe by militant islamists. After crossing the Sahara desert into Libya he tried to cross theMediterranean on a boat with 30 other persons. The boat sunk and Mr Abdulle swam back to Libya. His son drowned on this voyage.

Mr Nur left Somalia in 2003 because he had lost all his family due tothe ongoing war. He too crossed the Sahara desert into Libya. In September 2004 both men left Libya by boat in an attempt to reach Europe. Their boat was intercepted by a Maltese patrol boat and they were brought to Malta.

Upon their arrival they were taken to the Police Headquarters. Neither of them was given the opportunity to apply for asylum in Malta nor were they assisted by an interpreter.

Twenty days later the two men, together with four other illegal immigrants were taken, handcuffed, to the airport and were forcibly sent back to Libya. Both men asked to speak tothe UNHCR representative in Malta but their request was refused.

Upon their arrival in Libya they were arrested, beaten and tortured while they were kept in prison for a week. They were transferred to another prison and, three months later, they were taken to court where they were tried without an interpreter.

The men were sentenced to one year's imprisonment. During their time in prison they were again beaten and tortured.

In November 2005 the men, together with some other Somali men, were taken on a three day drive into the Sahara where they were abandoned.

They spent 14 days in the desert without suffieicient food or water. The rest of their company died but Mr Abdulle and Mr Nur managed to survive until they were rescued by some Berber bedouins, the court was told.

They made their way back to Libya and in June 2006 eventually managed to return to Malta.

In their constitutional application the men claimed that their right to freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment had been violated by the fact that they had been forcibly repatriated to a country which was known to practise torture. They further claimed that their fundamental human right to an effective remedy had been violated as Malta had not allowed them to apply for asylum.

Mr Justice Pace pointed out that in terms of law, an immigrant had to be informed of his right to seek asylum in Malta in a language he understood. This had not been done in this case.

The fact that no explanation had been given by the authorities and that the men had been detained at the Police Headquarters rather than being taken to a detention centre was very worrying.

The court added that the two men were not alleging that they had been subjected to torture in Malta. Their application was based upon the fact that they had been forcibly repatriated to Libya against their wishes. Libya was known to be a country without the rule of law and was also known to be a country where torture was practised.

A State was to be found guilty of inhuman and degrading treatment if it extradited a person to a country where he faced a real risk of being subjected to torture.

United Nations documentation of the time stated that asylum seekers and immgrants faced xenophobic acts of violence in LIbya. Asylum seekers in Libya did not benefit from the international protection ofthe Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees which Libya had not ratified. Reports also stated that hundreds of African migrant workers in Libya had been subject to racial violence and killings.

The court therefore found that Mr Abdulle's and Mr Nur's fundamental human rights had been violated. It awarded them €10,000 each by way of compensation.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us