Thirteen Eritrean asylum seekers have filed a judicial protest calling on the Maltese authorities to give them an effective remedy after suffering an alleged breach of rights when they were 'pushed back' to Libya in a rescue operation in April.

The protest was filed against the prime minister, the home affairs minister, the commander of the Armed Forces and the attorney general.

The migrants claimed damages after having been allegedly subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment when they were put back in detention at the Tarik al Sikka centre. 

They said they had to endure beatings, lack of food and detention upon their return to Libya after having suffered psychological trauma as fellow migrants died on their dinghy.

They were even robbed of their personal possessions, including kits handed to them by the UNHCR representatives in Tripoli.

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 inquiry had cleared the prime minister of homicide claims. 

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Among the group were a number of vulnerable women, including a mother and her two-and-a-half-year-old child, the court was told.

The migrants said the Libyan-registered fishing boat which rescued them had been acting as ‘a state agent’ under the instructions of the Maltese government. 

The 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 their right to protection against inhuman and degrading treatment, their right to seek asylum as well as the prohibition of collective pushback.

In the light of such considerations, the migrants called on the Maltese authorities to provide an effective remedy and to liquidate damages for such alleged breach of rights, whilst reserving the right to take further action both before the local as well as international courts.

Lawyers Paul Borg Olivier and Eve Borg Costanzi signed the judicial protest.

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