Concerns about pushbacks of refugees and migrants at sea and closure of sea ports

To Ms Ylva Johansson, Commissioner for Home Affairs, European Commission

21 May 2020, Brussels

Dear Commissioner Johansson,

I am writing to you to express our concerns with regard to the transfer of refugees and migrants rescued in the Maltese search and rescue (SAR) region to Tripoli on 15 April, the role played by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) in this and other SAR-related events, and the Maltese government’s decision to close the country’s ports as part of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We note that, with a ministerial decree dated 7 April, the Italian government has also declared that the country cannot be regarded as a place of safety for the purposes of disembarking people rescued outside Italy’s SAR region. Albeit in this letter we wish to focus on Malta, we consider that Italy’s decision, which we have publicly criticized alongside other NGOs, has contributed to render the situation in the central Mediterranean more dangerous for refugees and migrants and to
undermine the law of the sea and international human rights and refugee law.