Monday, 15 July 2013

ECtHR blocks push-backs from Malta. Will Malta ask for EASO's assistance?

 

 
Not many posts ago (post of 28 June), we informed you about the meeting held by Dr. Robert K. Visser (Executive Director of EASO) and Malta’s Prime Minister (PM), Dr. Joseph Muscat.

We also took that occasion to share with you the statements made by Malta’s Prime Minister after the meeting, whereby he not only expressed his discontent with the lack of solidarity between Member States in migration matters (particularly some Member States), but also referred to the possibility of using Malta’s veto power as a way to pressure Member States for an increase of solidarity.

And you probably recall that he even said to be in favour of pushing back asylum seekers (as long as the push-back was to a “safe-port”).

 

Malta’s PM reaffirmed eventual push-backs


If you thought Dr. Joseph Muscat would step back and reconsider his words (as we were hoping for!), he did the opposite: some days later (5 July), he reiterated the abovementioned intention, by affirming that “Malta would adopt a push back policy if necessary” (maltastar.com). He did this after the arrival in Malta, the previous day, of a group of 291 people.

Last Tuesday (9 July), another group of 102 people arrived to Malta. Some of the persons in the group were kept at police detention facilities, impeded from accessing their right to file an asylum request. In that same day, the media reported that the authorities were planning to put some of the persons that had arrived in that group on flights to Libya overnight.

You can read more details about these events in Amnesty International ‘Public Statement’ on this issue, as well as in several news, such as the ones in euobserver.com, dailymail.com and BBC news. Read also the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) Weekly Bulletin of 12 July.

 

"Would-be immigrants rest on a patrol boat arriving at Haywharf in Valetta's Marsamxett Harbour" (dailymail)

 

National and International reactions

Obviously, the statements by the Prime Minister and the concern that those people would be sent back to Libya prompted reactions from civil society and the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström.
 

As the TimesofMalta.com reports, the Commissioner said that “Dr. Muscat’s recent comments [we]re “extremely surprising” and could mislead public opinion on the efforts of the European Commission to help Malta deal with this problem”.

The Commissioner official response came in the same day through a statement (MEMO 13/676, 9 July) saying that she had “learnt with great concern the statements from the Maltese Prime Minister (...)” and reminding Malta of its international obligations.

The Commissioner further mentioned (our underline):
 

We also stand ready to increase our support to Malta if it should face growing migratory pressure. Should Maltese authorities ask for it, we are ready to engage in discussions on further measures, be it financial support or assistance through the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and Frontex”.


NGOs, in Malta and abroad, also reacted very quickly.

In Malta, we (
aditus Foundation) supported, together with other 10 NGOs, an application formally brought by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and The People for Change Foundation (PfC), which resulted in a European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) interim order blocking the return of the migrants.

In addition, we (together with the same 10 NGOs) issued a joint statement arguing that sending those people back would expose them to inhuman and degrading treatment or even death.

Aditus Foundation has also resigned from the LGBTI Consultative Council, in view of the fact that we are a human rights organisation believing that all human rights are universal and therefore we refused to endorse the Government's clear preference of some rights over others, of some groups of persons over others, particularly when motives seem to be exclusively based on increasing national political mileage (see the press release in our facebook page).


Apart from Amnesty International, other international organisations showed concern with the eventuality of push-backs (see, for instance, the International Commission of Jurists position).


What next? Malta to ask for EASO’s assistance?

It remains to be seen how the Prime Minister will react to future arrivals of migrants in Malta and how it will in practice respond to Commissioner’s Malmström suggestion... Will Malta formally ask for EASO’s assistance?

 

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