The EU Commission has reiterated that Libya must not be considered a safe port to return asylum seekers, after being informed of Malta’s secret migrant pushback deal with the war-torn country.
Approached by Lovin Malta for their position on the issue, an EU Commission spokesperson said:
“Our position on Libya has not changed; we do not consider Libya a safe port.”
The Times of Malta recently revealed how Malta’s Armed Forces are working with the Libyan coastguard to intercept migrants heading towards Europe and return them to the country, despite the armed conflict raging on.
Libya’s coastguard, however, has been linked to several human rights abuses, including torture. Meanwhile, they are also accused of hindering NGO rescue operations and putting several lives in danger.
The deal, which critics have labelled a secret pushback, is proving controversial, with some arguing that Malta is violating international law by forcing asylum seekers to return to the war-torn region.
The country is currently split between two government jostling for control, the UN-back government in Tripoli and the Libyan National Army, a proxy government, led by General Khalifa Haftar that first launched a strong military offensive in April.
While the Maltese government appears to have brokered a deal that has massive effects on Europe’s Border without ever informing the EU itself, the Commission declined to pronounce itself on the matter.
“This is a bilateral matter about which have no comments to offer,” a spokesperson explained.
The Commission also declined to comment on the Neville Gafa’s position as a negotiator on the deal, given his lack of experience and credentials when it comes to foreign affairs and the serious allegations he faces over the Libyan medical visa scandal.
Gafa, who works within OPM, has also been spotted in the past with Haithem Tajouri, the leader of a militia group known as the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade
The deal’s reveal seems to run contrary to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s recent declarations on migration.
Despite telling the public that “Maltese welcome migrants” and that his 2013 pushback was a mistake, the almost year-long agreement has seen Malta step up its efforts to ensure asylum seekers don’t end up on our shores.