News / Europe

Malta Forced to Cancel Repatriation of African Refugees

Malta Forced To Cancel Repatriation of African Refugeesi
X
July 10, 2013 9:11 PM
Malta has been forced to cancel the forced return of dozens of Somali migrants to Libya, after an emergency ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. The EU has criticized the attempted repatriation, but Malta has accused its European partners of a lack of solidarity. The disagreement comes after the Pope visited an Italian island earlier this week that has received thousands of migrants. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Henry Ridgwell
Malta has been forced to cancel the forced return of dozens of Somali migrants to Libya, after an emergency ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. The EU has criticized the attempted repatriation, but Malta has accused its European partners of a lack of solidarity. It comes after the Pope visited an Italian island earlier this week that's received thousands of migrants.

Tired, hungry and dehydrated, 68 migrants who'd set sail from Libya were rescued by Maltese patrol boats Wednesday 50 kilometers off the coastline, after their vessel lost power.   It's the second migrant boat to arrive in as many days.

Maltese authorities had intended to send two planes back to Libya carrying 45 Somali migrants who had arrived Tuesday.  But the European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling banning the repatriations.

The migrants must be given the chance to apply for asylum, says Katrine Camilleri, a Maltese lawyer from the Jesuit Refugee Service.

"They were well within Maltese jurisdiction, so all our national obligations and also our obligations in terms of European law and the European Convention on Human Rights clearly apply. Libya is unable to guarantee protection from cruel and degrading treatment or punishment to migrants in its territory," said Camilleri.

Authorities say more than 400 migrants have arrived on the island in the past week, including babies, pregnant women and three men with gunshot wounds. Most are Eritrean or Somali.

The European Court of Human Rights declared illegal in 2009 the practice of so-called 'push back' - where migrants are forced to return where they came from.

Malta's prime minister told reporters that the repatriations would send a 'message that we are not pushovers'.

"Given the situation in Libya, we believe that forced returns or push backs are not an option," said Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.

Malta has accused the European Union of a lack of solidarity in failing to help with the refugee influx.

The United Nations says around 8,400 refugees have landed in Italy and Malta so far this year - double the number in the same period last year.
 
"It is really important to recognize the important work that the Italian Coast Guard and the Maltese armed forces are doing in preventing more tragedies in the Mediterranean," said Mehecic.  "And just for comparison, last year we had about 500 deaths registered at sea. This year in the first six months, only 40, and it's all thanks to the good coordination effort of rescue at sea," he said.

On Monday a flotilla of fishing boats welcomed Pope Francis to the Italian island of Lampedusa, where tens of thousands of migrants have landed in recent years.

Pope Francis gave a mass to commemorate the thousands of migrants who have died on the journey.

"I thought I needed to come here today to pray," he said. "To carry out a gesture of closeness and to re-awaken our consciousness, so what has happened never happens again, never again please."

The summer months traditionally see a surge in migrant arrivals fleeing war and poverty at home. The vessels are often hugely overcrowded and in poor condition. Many do not reach their destination.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs