5 May 2020 — Statewatch
“On the same boat were five corpses”: European complicity in refoulements to Libya
“On Easter night and the days that followed I was involved in a mission in which a boat with 51 irregular migrants including 8 women and 3 minors were taken to port in Tripoli. On the same boat were five corpses.”
This is what Neville Gafà, a Maltese government official, told reporters in Malta last week after he left a criminal hearing investigating the illegal return of people to Libya. He claims not to have been involved in pushbacks, merely “preventing migrants from entering” the Maltese search and rescue area. The result, of course, is the same – the return of survivors to imprisonment, torture and maltreatment in Libya.
This quibbling over semantics will be familiar to anyone who has followed the ongoing saga of the EU’s attempts to provide the Libyan Coast Guard with the training and equipment necessary to prevent people travelling across the Mediterranean to the EU. Gafà’s admission has to be seen in a broader context, in which the EU, Italy, Malta and the EU border agency Frontex are attempting to have Libyan ‘authorities’ take on the role of Europe’s border guard.
A new analysis by Statewatch researcher Yasha Maccanico provides that context, looking at attempts to have the Libyan maritime search and rescue zone struck off international records, the Italian government justifying the closure of its ports to sea rescue vessels in the name of controlling the coronavirus pandemic, and Maltese-Libyan coordination on refoulements.
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