10th July 2013 – Women, men and children seeking refuge in Malta were yesterday at risk of being pushed back to Libya or to be kept in detention.  In just a few hours the pressure and mobilization in Malta, Brussels and Geneva halted any unlawful rapid push-back operation initially discussed by the Maltese government.

At 2pm yesterday (9th July), Dominik Kalweit of KOPIN, Destination Unknown Campaign member in Malta informed Terre Des Hommes that a group of 102 Somalis of which at least 2 babies and perhaps other children arrived to Malta in the morning.  The local authorities were preparing to send them back to Libya within the coming hours.

With first-hand information from KOPIN, Terre Des Hommes engaged a rapid response involving contacts in Brussels and Geneva levels with the office of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others triggering contacts with the office of the EU Home Affairs Commissioner, reaching out to the EU Home Affairs Commissioner and to the office of the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner.

The mobilization in Malta led by 11 NGOs was well organized issuing rapidly a press release and called for citizen’s reaction through social media platforms.  The Maltese NGO communications with their government remained nonpartisan despite the very sensitive political issue and was linked to the pressure of international organizations at UN and EU levels.

After a fear that the refugees were about to be transferred from the Police Station to the airport for deportation, it was announced around 6pm yesterday that the Maltese Government decided finally not to push these refugees back leaving the challenge to be tackled within the legal regulations.

Access to the refugees was not granted yesterday but today the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has been able to visit them. KOPIN and other organizations in Malta are following closely the situation of the children and women.  An additional 5 boats heading from Malta have been announced…

Amid the pope’s visit to Lampedusa and these worrying events in Malta, Amnesty International has just published a new report on human rights abuses along Greece’s border with Turkey including the situation of minors:  www.whenyoudontexist.eu.

Despite these very grim pictures of what is happening to migrants and refugees along European borders, there is determination that we can make a difference by calling on moral and legal obligations.

Ignacio Packer
Secretary General
Terre Des Hommes International Federation