Not all in the same boat: Migrant families separated off Maltese coast

© AP Photo/Abdel Magid al Fergany

Press Release

Not all in the same boat: Migrant families separated off Maltese coast  

(Brussels, 14 December 2010)  In July, Maltese coastguard vessels arbitrarily split a group of Somali asylum-seekers, condemning the travellers to very different fates. Amnesty International has followed the case and has now documented it in a new report, Seeking safety, finding fear: Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in Libya and Malta.

Amnesty International is concerned about people who are returned to Libya. “Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in Libya are highly vulnerable to arrest, prolonged detention, systematic torture and other abuse,” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “They fear being returned to their countries of origin, where many of them face persecution. Yet the EU is effectively conniving in Libyan abuse as it pays Libya to act as its gate-keeper.

Refugees and asylum-seekers are trapped in a legal limbo in Libya, regardless of their need for protection. Libya has not signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and has no asylum system. In November 2010, the Government rejected recommendations that Libya should ratify the 1951 Convention and allow the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to help refugees and asylum seekers in Libya. Despite the Libyan Government’s poor record, in October, the European Commission signed a cooperation agenda with it, covering the management of migration flows and border control, under which the EU will pay Libya €50m until 2013.   A broader Framework Agreement‘ between the EU and Libya is also being negotiated, which would include allowing the readmission to Libya of third-country nationals who enter the EU having passed through Libya.

In September 2010, an Amnesty International team visited Malta and interviewed Somalis and other asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants about their hazardous journeys from Libya to Malta. In the July case mentioned above , the asylum-seekers’ boat was intercepted and its passengers arbitrarily divided between Maltese and Libyan coastguard vessels, before being transferred to the two countries involved.

Amnesty International believes that conditions in Malta are far from comfortable for asylum-seekers. Under Maltese law, new arrivals, including asylum-seekers, are often considered ’prohibited immigrants’ and face detention of up to 18 months. Existing legal remedies to challenge detentions have been judged ’ineffective‘ by the European Court of Human Rights.   

For further information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:-
Peter Clarke, European Institutions Office Media Officer at +32 (0)2 548 2773;
e-mail: [email protected]

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