Malta’s Armed Forces are working with the Libyan coastguard to intercept migrants heading towards Europe and return them back to the country.
The secret deal will prove to be controversial given the current issues in Libya, which still sees regular armed conflict while two opposing government’s jostling for control.
In a report by The Times of Malta, Neville Gafa, who still faces serious allegations concerning his role in the Libyan medical visa scandal, has been revealed as the intermediary in brokering the agreement between Malta and Libya.
Gafa, who works within OPM, has been spotted in the past with Haithem Tajouri, the leader of a militia group known as the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade.
A source explained to The Times of Malta that negotiations for the deal began roughly around a year ago.
“We reached what you could call an understanding with the Libyans. When there is a vessel heading towards our waters, the AFM coordinates with the Libyans who pick them up and take them back to Libya before they come into our waters and become our responsibility,” the source said.
A spokesperson from the Office of the Prime Minister told the same newspaper that it holds regular bilateral meetings with the country.
“The EU is actively advocating in favour of compliance with instructions of competent authorities and against the obstruction of operations of the Libyan EU-funded and trained coastguard to help support migration management and fight smuggling.”
“The search and rescue areas form part of high seas where foreign military assets have every right to investigate any illegal activity departing from their coast.”
“In the past months, Malta has continued to welcome on a humanitarian basis migrants and asylum seekers, even when not legally obliged to do so, in a spirit of cooperation with other European states and solidarity with migrants.”
Libya’s coastguard, however, has been linked to a number of human rights abuses, including torture. Most recently, an NGO accused the coastguard of hindering one of their operations and putting several lives in danger.