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"Baħar Ċimiterju 2024" Bring Attention to the Migrant Crisis in Malta's Waters

25 local organisations are calling on the Maltese authorities to prevent further human rights violations and deaths in the Mediterranean Sea.

A gathering of activists calling for the Maltese authorities to stop the push back of migrants at sea. Photo: Moviment Graffitti

Press Release.

The Mediterranean Sea remains one of the deadliest border spaces in the world. Tens of thousands of people have died or gone missing attempting to cross the Med. At least 3,041(1) people died in the Sea in 2023, making it one of the deadliest years on record. The Central Mediterranean Route, from Tunisia and Libya to Malta and Italy, is especially dangerous. Eleven(2) children die every week, just on our horizon, along this route.

Maltese authorities, alongside the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, continue to contribute to these deaths by playing politics with people’s lives at sea, delaying rescue, and using their platforms to espouse the rhetoric of being hard on migrants. These policies undermine our values, spread fear and hatred and endanger the lives of innocent people.

The Maltese authorities have also pursued a policy of externalizing the border to North Africa. Neither Libya nor Tunisia have robust legal frameworks that protect the rights of refugees or migrating people. Human rights violations in Libya, including torture, extortion sexual violence and enslavement, are well documented and especially shocking.

Nevertheless, the Maltese authorities collaborate with quasi-legal entities, such as the Libyan Coast Guard and militias to have people forcibly returned from within our search and rescue zone to Libya. For example, in 2023 the authorities began providing coordinates of vessels in distress in Malta’s search and rescue zone to the Tariq Bin Zayed Brigade, a Libyan militia with a well-documented track record of human rights violations. Consequently, hundreds of people, many of them children, were intercepted in our waters and forced back(3) to detention and degradation in Libya.

These actions amount to a violation of the legal principle of non-refoulement, enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights which prohibits the transfer of anyone to a place where they would face a real risk of persecution, torture or other serious harm.

The organisations are calling on the Maltese authorities to:

  • Conduct and coordinate timely rescue of people in distress in our search and rescue zone

  • Enact policies and espouse rhetoric that upholds the value of all human life.

  • Immediately end the policy of coordinating pushbacks from Malta’s search and rescue zone.

  • Cease support for and collaboration with actors that violate human rights, such as the Libyan Coast Guard and the Tariq Bin Zayed Brigade.

  • Stop criminalising humanitarian rescue organisations and start coordinating with them to save lives at sea.



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