Malta went over and above its legal requirements when it ordered that a group of stranded migrants be rescued by a fishing vessel and pushed back to Libya, Prime Minister Robert Abela insisted this morning.
Abela was testifying in a Constitutional case filed by a group of migrants who were pushed back to Libya and kept in detention. They are calling for an effective remedy for the alleged breach of rights they claim to have suffered.
During this morning’s sitting, Abela told the court that Malta’s ports were closed at the time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the government having worked night and day to find a way of rescuing the migrants.
He insisted that Malta would have been within its legal rights had it chosen to do nothing but its “conscience” had not allowed it to pursue this course of action.
The migrants were picked up by a local fishing vessel and transported back to Libya in April 2020. They are claiming that it was the state’s failure to observe international, European and local laws that led to them receiving inhuman and degrading treatment.
During his testimony, Abela also criticised EU member states, like Italy, which he said had abandoned Malta.
Asked about the role of former OPM official Nevile Gafa in the operation, Abela told the court that his involvement was limited to establishing a line of communication with Libyan authorities.
What do you make of the Prime Minister’s testimony?