Malta condemned for the ill-treatment of migrants
LA VALLETTA (MALTA) (ITALPRESS/MNA) – The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) condemned the Maltese authorities on how migrants are badly treated at sea and on land. A migrant from Còte d’Ivoire who was with a group of 80 migrants was told “there is no Europe for you today.” Two others on the same boat said Maltese authorities told them they had three options: return to Libya, continue to Lampedusa, Italy, or go to Malta and be arrested upon arrival. Other migrants recounted how detention guards in Malta encouraged them to commit suicide. One asylum seeker claimed that Maltese guards urged desperate and suicidal migrants to “go ahead, kill yourselves.” A Bangladeshi man recounted on how he was kept in detention for eight months, while there have been countless cases of attempted suicide and self-harm since he has been detained in Malta.
Others recounted inhumane conditions in detantion, how they were forced to drink water from toilets and the excessive use of force by security forces. An Ethiopian man described the shocking detention conditions, including migrants being forced to drink water out of the toilet due to a lack of clean drinking water; insufficient beds for all of the detained to sleep in, severe overcrowding and extremely hot temperatures without access to air conditioning or fans. The 35-page report ‘Lethal Disregard: Search and rescue and the protection of migrants in the central Mediterranean Seà includes experiences of asylum seekers who embark on perilous journeys between Libya and Europe.
The OHCHR report also showed how a child migrant recalled being met at sea by the Maltese coastguard, who told the people at sea “Malta does not want migrants… you should continue until you reach Lampedusa”. The Armed Forces of Malta denies categorically all accusations of illegal push backs of migrants at sea. However, the United Nations report gives a completely different picture. The report investigates allegations of delays in assisting migrant vessels in distress, as well as incidents of migrant vessels being turned away by European authorities. One such episode happened on 11 April 2020 the Armed Foreces of Malta approached a rubber boat that had arrived within sight of Maltese shores and handed out life vests to migrants in distress, but refused to allow them to arrive to Malta. OHCHR later received information that the AFM allegedly equipped the rubber boat with a new outboard motor, fuel, drinking water and navigational instruments calibrated towards Italy and that a private Maltese vessel escorted the boat in the direction of Sicily”.
OHCHR called on Malta and other EU countries to refrain from the use of immigration detention for migrants disembarked after rescue at sea. Instead, EU member states should expand the availability of human rights-based alternatives to detention, the report said.