The Amnesty International, the biggest human rights organization in the world, condemned the government of Malta in its approach towards the migrants. Amnesty called it ‘illegal tactics’ that, otherwise could have stopped the death of many. “The approach taken by the Maltese government might have led to avoidable deaths”, the group said in a report that alleged human rights abuses against illegal immigrants.
Amnesty’s report was released hours after UN agencies on Monday called on Malta and the EU to end the latest humanitarian crisis onboard a cargo ship off the Maltese coast. “The Maltese government has resorted to dangerous and illegal measures for dealing with the arrivals of refugees and migrants at sea,” Amnesty said.
“This escalation of tactics included arranging unlawful pushbacks to Libya, diverting boats towards Italy rather than rescuing people in distress and illegally detaining hundreds of people in ill-equipped ferries off Malta’s waters.”
The signing of an agreement between Valletta and Tripoli in late May “to prevent people from reaching Malta” further exposed them to brutal treatment on their return to Libyan refugee camps, Amnesty said in the 34-page report.
“Some of the actions taken by the Maltese authorities may have involved criminal acts being committed, resulting in avoidable deaths, prolonged arbitrary detention and illegal returns to war-torn Libya,” it said. Malta and Italy in April closed their ports to migrants as the corona virus pandemic closed its grip on the two countries, with Malta saying it needed all of its resources to fight the disease.
Since the start of the year Malta has received 2,161 illegal immigrants “and the resources and efforts necessary to ensure reception, access to protection and protection from Covid-19 are undoubtedly considerable for such a small country”, said Amnesty. “But that did not relieve Malta of the responsibility to indicate a place of safety for the people rescued under its co-ordination”, the group said.
While the Amnesty report was out, another cargo ship was detained at the port and denied docking which had 27 rescued migrants on board. The Maersk Etienne on August 4 rescued the migrants at the request of the Maltese authorities, which have since declined to let it into port.
The UN’s refugee agency, the International Organisation for Migration and the International Chamber of Shipping “called for the immediate disembarkation of the people trapped on board the ship”.
Meanwhile, the government of Malta has not yet responded to the accusation report from the Amnesty. But Mr. Robert Abela, the Prime Minister of Malta had commented on the Maersk Etiennee issue that the incident was not Malta’s responsibility, as the ship was sailing, carrying a Danish flag.
“While I understand the humanitarian aspect of migration, I have to understand the interests of the Maltese,” Mr. Abela told the media.