• Latest Tactic to Push Migrants From Europe ? A Private, Clandestine Fleet

    The government of Malta enlisted three privately owned fishing trawlers to intercept migrants in the Mediterranean, and force them back to a war zone, officials and a boat captain say.

    With the onset of the coronavirus, Malta announced that it was too overwhelmed to rescue migrants making the precarious crossing of the Mediterranean Sea, where the tiny island nation has been on the front line of the maritime migration route over the past decade.

    In secret, however, the Maltese authorities have worked hard to make sure no migrants actually reach the island.

    It dispatched a small fleet of private merchant vessels in April to intercept migrants at sea and return them by force to a war zone in Libya, according to information provided by the captain of one of the boats, a senior commander in the Libyan Coast Guard, and a former Maltese official involved in the episode.

    The three repurposed fishing trawlers are privately owned, but acted on the instructions of the Armed Forces of Malta, the captain and the others said.

    The clandestine operation, which some experts consider illegal under international law, is just the latest dubious measure taken by European countries in recent years to stem the migration from Africa and the Middle East that has sown political chaos in Europe and fueled a populist backlash.

    Since 2017, European states, led by Italy, have paid the Libyan government to return more migrants to Libya, hassled the private rescue organizations that try to bring them to Europe, and asked passing merchant vessels to intercept them before they enter European waters.

    But Malta’s latest tactic may be among the most egregious, maritime experts say, because it involved a designated flotilla of private vessels, based in a European port, that intercepted and expelled asylum seekers from international waters that fall within the responsibility of European coast guards.

    “Against a pattern of increased abuses against asylum seekers in recent years, this newest approach stands out,” said Itamar Mann, an expert in maritime and refugee law at the University of Haifa in Israel. “Its methods chillingly resemble organized crime, and indeed the operations of people smugglers, which European policymakers so adamantly denounce.”

    “The facts available raise serious concerns that we are seeing the emergence of a novel systematic pattern, such that may even put Maltese state officials in danger of criminal liability, at home or abroad,” Dr. Mann added.

    The Maltese government did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

    The activity was first documented on the evening of April 12, when three aging blue trawlers left the Grand Harbour in Valletta, the Maltese capital, within an hour of each other. The three boats — the Dar Al Salam 1, the Salve Regina and the Tremar — departed at the request of the Maltese authorities, according to the captain of the Tremar, Amer Abdelrazek.

    A former Maltese official, Neville Gafa, said he was enlisted by the government that same night to use his connections in Libya to ensure the safe passage of the first two boats to Libya.

    The boats did not submit paperwork to the immigration police, and switched off their satellite tracking devices soon after leaving port, maritime databases show.

    But their mission had already been determined, said Mr. Gafa, who said he had been asked by the Maltese prime minister’s chief of staff, Clyde Caruana, to help coordinate the operation. Mr. Caruana did not respond to requests for comment, but a government spokesman told The Times of Malta that Mr. Gafa had been asked to liaise with Libya on a separate matter that was unconnected to the episode.

    The trawlers were sent to intercept a migrant vessel attempting to reach Malta from Libya — and which had been issuing mayday calls for some 48 hours — and then return its passengers to Libya, Mr. Gafa said.

    The stricken migrant vessel was still in international waters, according to coordinates provided by the migrants by satellite phone to Alarm Phone, an independent hotline for shipwrecked refugees. But it had reached the area of jurisdiction of Malta’s armed forces, making it Malta’s responsibility under international maritime law to rescue its passengers and provide them with sanctuary.

    Two of the trawlers — the Dar Al Salam 1 and the Tremar — reached the migrant vessel early on April 14, guided by a Maltese military helicopter, Mr. Abdelrazek said. Several of the migrants had already drowned, according to testimony later gathered by Alarm Phone.

    The roughly 50 survivors were taken aboard the Dar Al Salam 1, Mr. Abdelrazek said.

    The Dar Al Salam 1 and the Salve Regina sailed to Tripoli on April 15, the former carrying the migrants and the latter carrying several tons of food and water, as a show of appreciation to the Libyan government, Mr. Abdelrazek and Mr. Gafa said. The Tremar waited in international waters, Mr. Abdelrazek said.

    The Maltese authorities told their Libyan counterparts that the Dar Al Salam 1 was in fact a Maltese vessel called the Maria Cristina, said Commodore Masoud Abdalsamad, who oversees international operations at the Libyan Coast Guard. To further obscure its identity, the boat’s crew had also painted over the ship’s name and flew a Maltese flag to confuse the Libyan Coast Guard.

    Though based physically in Malta and owned by a Maltese shipowner, the vessel is legally registered in Tobruk, a port in east Libya controlled by opponents of the authorities in Tripoli. The crew did not want to risk upsetting the Tripoli government by broadcasting its links to Tobruk, leading it to hide its name and home port, Mr. Abdelrazek said.

    After disembarking, the migrants were taken to a notorious detention center run by a pro-government militia, where migrants are routinely tortured, held for ransom or sold to other militias. The detention cells stand close to an arms depot, and the surrounding area was hit by shelling in December.

    Conditions at the detention center are “utterly appalling,” said Safa Msehli, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration, an arm of the United Nations. “People are caged in overcrowded hangars with barely any access to food or sanitation facilities.”

    “Many tell us of the abuse they endure and the inhumane ways in which they are exploited,’’ Ms. Msehli added. ‘‘Reports of migrants being used to load weapons, and the detention center’s proximity to a military facility, raise serious concerns over the safety of people detained there arbitrarily.”

    After departing Tripoli, the Dar Al Salam 1 turned its satellite identification system back on, and the boat resurfaced off the coast of Libya on the evening of April 15, data provided by Marine Traffic, a maritime database, shows.

    The owner of the Salve Regina, Dominic Tanti, declined to comment through an intermediary, and the owner of the Tremar, Yasser Aziz, did not return a message seeking comment.

    The owner of the Dar Al Salam 1, Carmelo Grech, did not to respond to multiple requests for comment sent by text, voice message and a letter hand-delivered to his apartment. But he has confirmed his boat’s involvement to a Maltese newspaper, and several outlets have already highlighted its role, including the Italian newspaper, Avvenire, and the Maltese blogger Manuel Delia.

    Mr. Grech and his boat have colorful histories, raising questions in Malta about why the government involved them in a state-led operation.

    Mr. Grech has previously recounted how he used the boat, then known as the Mae Yemanja, to bring supplies to Libyan rebels during the Libyan revolution in 2011. In 2012, court records show it was impounded after Mr. Grech was accused, though later acquitted, of smuggling contraband cigarettes from Libya to Malta.

    In 2015, Mr. Grech was detained by a Libyan faction for several days for what he later described as a misunderstanding over his visas.

    Maltese ship records obtained by The Times show that Mr. Grech canceled his boat’s registration in Malta last February, before repainting it to show it had been re-registered in Tobruk, for undisclosed reasons.

    Mr. Abdelrazek also has a criminal history, having been convicted in 2014 of forging documents, court records show.

    After appearing briefly in Malta last week, the Dar Al Salam 1 and the Salve Regina returned again to sea on Sunday.

    Their satellite trackers were once again switched off shortly afterward.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/30/world/europe/migrants-malta.html
    #privatisation #asile #migrations #réfugiés #frontières #contrôles_frontaliers #Malte #Méditerranée #push-backs #refoulement #refoulements #Libye

    –—

    Commentaire de @isskein via la mailing-list Migreurop :

    Depuis avril fonctionne une méthode pro-active : une #flotte_privée de 3 bateaux qui se chargent d’arrêter les bateaux de migrants et de les renvoyer vers la Libye.

    Un ancien officiel maltais, #Neville_Gafà, a été engagé par le Premier Ministre pour monter l’affaire avec ses contacts libyens

    il est entre autres responsable de la #tragédie_de_Pâques : le gouvernement a ignoré durant 48h un bateau qui se trouvait dans sles eaux internationales (mais dans la juridiction des Forces armées maltaises) , puis envoyé sa flotte privée, qui a pris à son bord 51 migrants dont 8 femmes et 3 enfants, à bord 5 cadavres ; 7 migrants s’étaient noyés auparavant. Ils ont été ramenés à Tripolii
    voir https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/the-faces-and-names-of-a-migration-tragedy.788723

    #mourir_en_mer #morts #décès

    –---
    Dans le mail reçu via la mailing-list Migreurop, Conni parle de #hotspot_mobile :

    Yesterday we got news from the Maltese media about a new strategy of the authorities to keep rescued migrants out: a floating hotspot on a cruise ship off their coast:
    https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/102051/rescued_migrants_to_be_kept_on_captain_morgan_vessel_outside_territor

    https://www.tvm.com.mt/en/news/rescued-migrants-will-remain-on-vessel-13-miles-outside-maltese-territorial-

    via @isskein

    • Rappel de Sara Prestianni sur l’utilisation des #hotspots_mobiles en #Italie (via mailing-list Migreurop, 01.05.2020) :

      The “hotspot boat” is the same system , used by Italy from April 17 , only for migrants have been intercepted by ships flying foreign flags, as decided in the inter-ministerial decree of 7 April.
      On board of the ship “hotspot” Rubattino - positioned in front of Palermo - there are at this moment almost 200 migrants, of the two rescues carried out by the ships Alan Kurdi and Aita Mari. All of them were negative to the Covid test, but it is not clear how long they will have to stay on the ship and where they will be transferred (at the beginning of the procedure there was talk of a relocation to Germany).
      Yesterday the Guarantor for the Rights of Italian Prisoners, in his bulletin, expressed concern about the establishment of these “floating” hotspots.
      http://www.garantenazionaleprivatiliberta.it/gnpl

      “The implementation of quarantine measures in extraordinary and exceptional places cannot lead to a situation of ’limbo’: migrant people are under the jurisdiction of the Italian State for the purposes of the health measures imposed on them, but at the same time they do not have the possibility - and for a period of time not indifferent - to exercise the rights that our country recognizes and protects. They cannot apply for asylum, they are not de facto - and at least temporarily - protected as victims of trafficking or unaccompanied foreign minors, nor can they have timely access to procedures for family reunification under the Dublin Regulation. - procedures which, moreover, have their own intrinsic deadlines.”
      The Guarantor also indicated that the experience of the ship “Rubattino” would not seem to remain an isolated case as the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport launched on 19 April a procedure for the chartering of vessels to be used for the assistance and health surveillance of migrants rescued at sea or arrived on the national territory as a result of autonomous boats.

      –---

      –-> sur les hotspots mobiles, voir aussi : https://seenthis.net/tag/hotspot_mobile

    • Abela admits coordinating private boats that returned migrants to Libya

      PM says Easter manoeuvre was a ’rescue’ not a pushback.

      Prime Minister Robert Abela has admitted commissioning a boat that returned migrants to war-torn Libya on Easter weekend but has insisted it was a rescue mission and not a pushback.

      A boat commissioned by Maltese authorities picked up a group of migrants in the search and rescue area earlier this month and returned them to the North African country.

      It is a crime under international law for states to return asylum seekers to a country where they are likely to face persecution.

      Speaking publicly about the controversy for the first time on Friday, Abela admitted the manoeuvre and defended the government’s actions.

      "There was no pushback,"he said.

      "There was a rescue of migrants. Had the Maltese government not coordinated, tens of lives would have died, because a [EU coastguard] Frontex plane just flew overhead and kept on going.

      “Malta’s ports are closed but it coordinated this rescue and ensured that the irregular migrants were taken to the port that was open.”

      The country, along with Italy, closed its ports, citing concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

      Former OPM official Neville Gafa claimed under oath this week that he had coordinated the pushback.

      Asked Gafa’s involvement, Abela said his only involvement was liaising with a contact he was claiming to have in Libya so that the rescue could be facilitated. He said Gafa was not paid or promised anything.

      Abela defended using a private boat, saying that a Search and Rescue convention stipulates the legal obligations of individual states that are not obliged to carry out the actual rescues but to coordinate such rescues.

      The obligations also state that countries can use their own assets or else send private assets to rescue boats in distress, he said.

      This week, Malta has commissioned a Captain Morgan tourist boat Europa II, to house migrants until a solution for their disembarkation is found.

      “We are ready to do anything to save lives. We have nothing to be ashamed of,” Abela said, adding that the cost for the Captain Morgan boat being used to temporarily house migrants outside Maltese waters will come from aid by the EU.

      “Malta’s position is clear and we know what our obligations are. We are going to remain firm on this. We are not a safe port and we cannot guarantee our resources for rescues.

      "We are duty bound to stick to this position. It is counterproductive to close port and airports to tourists but then open ports for irregular migrants. There are hundreds of thousands of people on the Libyan coast wanting to leave there and come to Lampedusa and Malta. We are obeying international rules,” he insisted.

      He said the migration problem should not be “Malta’s alone” and called for the EU to intervene.

      Earlier on Friday, Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo told Times of Malta that “the EU was responsible for a huge push back of migrants to Malta”.

      He said its failure to set up an effective and fair solidarity mechanism to share the burden of welcoming irregular migrants means that Malta had borne a huge burden over the years.

      He quoted a letter from a United Nations official to him in which he admitted that Europe needed to adopt a more principled migration policy that will serve European needs, that does not penalise those seeking to cross, and that does not leave countries like Malta, which are trying to do the right thing, on their own.

      “If we continue to fail, more people, Libyans and non-Libyans, will be compelled to seek safety on the European side” because of the ongoing war and the economic consequences of Covid-19.

      Bartolo said that in the first three months of the year, 3,600 irregular migrants left the Libyan coast through the Central Mediterranean route. This is over 400 per cent more than in the same period in 2019. Some 1,200 came to Malta.

      He said Malta’s centres were “overflowing” and there is no room for more migrants.

      https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/abela-admits-coordinating-private-boats-that-returned-migrants-to.7893

    • Malte a affrété des navires privés pour renvoyer les embarcations de migrants vers la Libye

      Une enquête du New York Times révèle que les autorités maltaises ont affrété, depuis le mois d’avril, une flotte de navires privés afin d’empêcher les migrants d ’atteindre l’île et les renvoyer en Libye. Selon plusieurs experts, cette action est illégale.

      En pleine pandémie de coronavirus, Malte fait tout pour empêcher les embarcations de migrants d’atteindre l’île. A tel point que le gouvernement a discrètement dépêché en avril une flotte de navires marchands privés pour intercepter les migrants et les renvoyer en Libye, a révélé une enquête du New York Times publiée jeudi 30 avril.

      Selon le quotidien américain - qui s’appuie sur les témoignages d’un capitaine de l’un de ces bateaux, commandant en chef des garde-côtes libyens, et d’un ancien responsable maltais impliqué dans l’opération - les trois chalutiers de pêche affrétés appartiennent à des particuliers mais ont agi sur les instructions des forces armées maltaises.
      Une opération sur ordre du Premier ministre maltais

      L’opération a été documentée pour la première fois dans la soirée du 12 avril, écrit le New York Times, quand trois chalutiers ont quitté le port de la Valette, la capitale maltaise, sur ordre des autorités. Un ancien responsable maltais, Neville Gafa, a déclaré qu’il avait été enrôlé par le gouvernement le soir même pour utiliser ses relations en Libye et assurer le passage en toute sécurité des deux premiers chalutiers vers les ports libyens.

      Le Dar As Salam 1 et le Tremar, ont ainsi été envoyés pour intercepter une embarcation de migrants présente dans les eaux maltaises - qui avait émis des appels de détresse depuis deux jours - afin de les renvoyer en Libye, a précisé Neville Gafa. A bord du canot, se trouvait cinq cadavres.

      Le 15 avril, l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations (OIM) avait pourtant affirmé que les migrants avaient été interceptés par un navire marchand puis remis à des garde-côtes qui les avaient alors amenés au port de Tripoli.

      Le troisième chalutier, le Salve Regina, a quant à lui navigué vers Tripoli le 15 avril, transportant plusieurs tonnes de nourriture et d’eau, en guise de remerciement au gouvernement libyen, assure au quotidien américain le capitaine du Tremar, Amer Abdelrazek.

      Devant la justice maltaise, à la suite de la plainte lancée par plusieurs ONG contre le Premier ministre sur sa responsabilité dans la mort des cinq migrants, Neville Gafa a déclaré sous serment qu’il avait agi sur ordre du cabinet du Premier ministre.

      Une opération illégale

      « Dans une tendance à l’augmentation des abus contre les demandeurs d’asile ces dernières années, cette nouvelle approche se démarque », déclare au New York Times Itamar Mann, expert en droit maritime et des réfugiés à l’université de Haïfa, en Israël. « Ces méthodes ressemblent de façon effrayante au crime organisé, aux opérations de passeurs, que les décideurs européens dénoncent avec tant de fermeté », continue le chercheur pour qui cette opération est illégale eu égard au droit international.

      En effet, comme écrit le quotidien américain, une flotte de navires privées, basée dans un port européen, qui intercepte et expulse des demandeurs d’asile des eaux internationales relèvent de la responsabilité des garde-côtes européens.

      Cette opération « pourrait mettre les fonctionnaires de l’Etat maltais en danger de responsabilité pénale, dans le pays ou à l’étranger », signale encore Itamar Mann.

      https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/24485/malte-a-affrete-des-navires-prives-pour-renvoyer-les-embarcations-de-m

    • Malta-Libya #deal sets up centres ’against illegal migration’

      Coastguard, UN centres, EU help among items discussed

      Malta and Libya will be setting up units to coordinate operations against illegal migration, the government said on Thursday.

      These centres are expected to start operating within the coming weeks, however, the government provided no additional information.

      The announcement followed an unannounced trip by Prime Minister Robert Abela, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri and Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo to Tripoli, where they discussed migration with the Libyan government.

      The three met Fayez al-Sarraj who heads the UN-backed Government of National Accord as well as Mohammed Sheibani, deputy minister responsible for migration at the meeting in Tripoli.

      It was Abela’s first trip to war-torn Libya as prime minister.

      Sources said the meeting was held on the back of a new wave of Malta-Libya relations, and a change in approach.

      Discussions revolved around the need to push the EU to help Libya to train its coastguard, obtain funding for reception camps manned by the UN, as well as to build a realistic strategy to slow down the flow of migrants into Libya.

      “It was a positive meeting, though of course that doesn’t mean we’ve resolved the migration issue,” a source told Times of Malta.

      “Malta could be Libya’s bridge to the EU. We need to stop human trafficking as well as save lives at sea,” the source said.

      Valletta, diplomatic sources say, has been trying to build new bridges with the Libyan authorities to stem the tide of migrants leaving the North African coast.
      800,000 migrants in Libya

      In a statement issued later on Thursday, the government said that during the meeting Abela reiterated Malta’s position on the need to address and stop human trafficking. Malta, he added, was facing unprecedented and disproportionate flows and burdens.

      Meanwhile, al-Sarraj said that 800,000 migrants were currently in Libya and the country needed an effective long-term and holistic approach.

      Both leaders spoke about the need to strengthen cooperation to ensure that lives are not lost at sea and to combat human traffickers on the ground and at sea.

      According to Abela, the solution lies in concrete action on Libyan shores and its southern border. This would be done through addressing and stopping human trafficking, rather than focusing just on relocation of migrants to other countries.

      Signing a #memorandum_of_understanding, Malta and Libya agreed to set up a coordination unit in each country to assist in operations against illegal migration.

      The agreement also stipulates that Malta supports Libya when it comes to financial assistance through the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework.

      https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/abela-ministers-return-from-libya-after-positive-migration-talks.79484

      #accord #centres

    • Mer méditerranée : Malte renforce sa coopération avec la Libye pour lutter contre « l’immigration illégale »

      Malte a signé un accord avec le gouvernement d’union nationale (GNA) libyen dans le but de renforcer « la lutte contre l’immigration illégale » en mer Méditerranée. Le texte prévoit la création de « centres de coordination » à Tripoli et La Valette qui seront opérationnels dès le mois de juillet.

      Malte tente par tous les moyens de limiter le flux de migrants qui débarquent sur ses côtes. Pour ce faire, les autorités maltaises et libyennes viennent d’acter la création de « centres de coordination » à Tripoli et à La Valette.

      Ces deux centres « offriront le soutien nécessaire à la lutte contre l’immigration illégale en Libye et dans la région méditerranéenne », selon un protocole d’accord entre Malte et le gouvernement d’union nationale (GNA) de Fayez al-Sarraj, et présenté au Parlement maltais mercredi 3 juin (https://www.independent.com.mt/file.aspx?f=206640).

      Financé par le gouvernement maltais, ces structures seront chacune dirigées par trois fonctionnaires et limiteront leur travail « au soutien et à la coordination », indique cet accord valable pour trois ans. Les centres devraient voir le jour dès le mois de juillet.
      « L’UE a la responsabilité de parvenir à un accord global avec la Libye »

      Malte, le plus petit État de l’Union européenne (UE), de par sa taille et sa population, se plaint depuis longtemps d’être obligé d’assumer à lui seul l’arrivée des migrants en provenance de la Libye, pays en guerre.

      Actuellement, plus de 400 migrants secourus en Méditerranée sont bloqués sur quatre navires touristiques affrétés par Malte juste à la limite de ses eaux territoriales, La Valette exigeant qu’ils soient ensuite pris en charge par d’autres pays européens.

      Le ministre maltais des Affaires étrangères, Evarist Bartolo, a déclaré au Parlement mercredi que « l’UE a la responsabilité de parvenir à un accord global avec la Libye afin de limiter l’immigration clandestine ».

      « Le nombre d’immigrants arrivant à Malte est disproportionné par rapport aux autres pays européens », a insisté le ministre. Selon lui, depuis 2005 l’Europe n’a accueilli que 1 700 migrants, tandis que 22 000 sont arrivés à Malte - seuls 8% des migrants en situation irrégulière sur l’île ont été relocalisés dans d’autres pays européens.

      Selon le protocole d’accord, Malte proposera à la Commission européenne une augmentation du soutien financier pour aider le GNA à sécuriser ses frontières sud et à démanteler les réseaux de trafiquants d’êtres humains.

      La Valette proposera également le financement de « moyens maritimes supplémentaires nécessaires » pour contrôler et intercepter les passeurs de migrants en Méditerranée.


      https://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/25175/mer-mediterranee-malte-renforce-sa-cooperation-avec-la-libye-pour-lutt

    • Accordo Malta-Libia: insieme daranno la caccia ai migranti. Con i soldi Ue

      Centrali operative e pattugliamenti congiunti. Fonti Onu: è una regolazione dei respingimenti illegali. Intanto Frontex smentisce l’inchiesta di Malta sulla “#Strage_di_Pasquetta

      Dopo la scoperta degli accordi segreti con Tripoli, siglati tre anni fa, Malta ha deciso di uscire allo scoperto negoziando un memorandum siglato dal premier Robert Abela, fresco di archiviazione per le accuse di respingimento, e il presidente libico Fayez al Sarraj.

      I due Paesi daranno insieme la caccia ai migranti nel Mediterraneo, ma con nuovi fondi Ue da destinare a Tripoli.

      SCARICA QUI IL DOCUMENTO COMPLETO: https://www.avvenire.it/c/attualita/Documents/MOU%20with%20Libya.pdf

      E’ prevista la creazione di «centri di coordinamento» nel porto di Tripoli e a La Valletta che saranno operativi da luglio. In realtà le operazioni congiunte andavano avanti da anni, ma adesso sono state ufficializzate. Le strutture congiunte «forniranno il sostegno necessario alla lotta contro l’immigrazione clandestina in Libia e nella regione del Mediterraneo», si legge. Inizialmente Malta finanzierà interamente l’attivazione delle centrali operative, ognuna delle quali sarà guidata da tre funzionari dei rispettivi governi. Fin da subito, però, il premier Abela si impegna a ottenere dall’Ue fondi aggiuntivi da destinare alla cosiddetta Guardia costiera libica, che verrà ulteriormente equipaggiata.

      Nessuna menzione si fa riguardo alla necessità di ristabilire il rispetto dei diritti umani nei campi di prigionia libici. L’unico scopo, come del resto è sempre stato in questi anni anche per Italia e Ue, è quello di trattenere i profughi in cattività, a qualunque costo. «L’UE ha la responsabilità di raggiungere un accordo globale con la Libia», c’è scritto nell’accordo che, di fatto, appalta a Malta e Libia il controllo dell’intero Canale di Sicilia, ad esclusione delle ultime 12 miglia territoriali dalla costa di Lampedusa. Malta, lo stato più piccolo dell’Unione Europea (Ue) per dimensioni e popolazione, si è lamentato da tempo di essere costretto ad assumere da solo la responsabilità dell’arrivo dei migranti dalla Libia, un paese in guerra che secondo l’Onu in alcun modo può essere ritenuto un “porto sicuro”.

      Nelle settimane scorse una nuova serie di inchieste giornalistiche internazionali ha permesso di accertare che non solo Malta ha messo in mare da tempo una flottiglia di “pescherecci fantasma” incaricati di intercettare i barconi e ricondurli in Libia, ma che spesso le Forze armate dell’isola equipaggiano i gommoni, anche con motori nuovi, affinché raggiungano le coste siciliane.

      Nei giorni scorsi il Tribunale dell’isola aveva archiviato il procedimento contro il premier laburista Robert Abela e il capo delle forze armate, accusati della morte di 12 migranti nella “strage di Pasquetta”. Forte di questa “assoluzione”, Abela si è recato a Tripoli per sigillare l’intesa con il presidente al-Sarraj. Ma proprio uno dei punti chiave utilizzati dal giudice Joe Mifsud per cestinare le accuse, ieri è stato categoricamente smentito dall’agenzia Ue Frontex che ha risposto per iscritto alle domande di Avvenire. Secondo il magistrato, infatti, il coordinamento dei soccorsi in qualche misura era attribuibile non a Malta ma a Frontex che aveva individuato con un suo aereo i barconi. Da Varsavia, rispondendo con una nota ad “Avvenire”, l’agenzia ha precisato che “è il centro di salvataggio appropriato, non Frontex, a decidere se chiedere assistenza a qualsiasi nave della zona. E Frontex non aveva navi vicino a quest’area”. La responsabilità di intervenire, dunque, era di innanzitutto di Malta che invece per giorni ha ignorato gli Sos e ha poi inviato un motopesca quando oramai 7 persone erano affogate e altre 5 sono morte di stenti durante il respingimento dalle acque maltesi verso la Libia.

      Nel fine settimana di Pasqua l’aeroobile Eagle 1, tracciato e segnalato dal giornalista Sergio Scandura di Radio Radicale “stava svolgendo - spiegano da Frontex - una missione di sorveglianza ben al di fuori dell’area operativa dell’Operazione Themis di Frontex”. Nella nota un portavoce dell’agenzia Ue precisa poi che “Frontex gestisce operazioni congiunte, nonché la sorveglianza pre-frontaliera, che veniva eseguita dall’aereo in questione”. Secondo questa ricostruzione, che avrebbe meritato maggiore puntiglio investigativo anche per accertare eventuali responsabilità esterne a Malta, “in linea con il diritto internazionale, Frontex ha avvisato i centri di soccorso competenti dell’avvistamento di una nave che riteneva necessitasse di assistenza”, si legge ancora. Parole che hanno un significato preciso e costituiscono un’accusa verso chi era stato informato e doveva prestare quell’assistenza negata per giorni. Le autorità italiane hanno apposto il segreto alle comunicazioni intercorse. Silenzio che potrebbe essere presto scardinato da indagini giudiziarie. Lo stesso per Malta, che neanche nell’atto conclusivo dell’inchiesta ha voluto rendere pubbliche le comunicazioni con Roma e con Frontex che a sua volta ribadisce ad Avvenire che “è il centro di salvataggio appropriato, non Frontex, a decidere se chiedere assistenza a qualsiasi nave della zona. Tuttavia, desidero sottolineare qui che Frontex non aveva navi vicino a quest’area”.

      Il memorandum sta creando non poco dibattito nei vertici della Marina militare italiana. A Tripoli, infatti, si trova la nave Gorgona, ufficialmente incaricata di assistere la cosiddetta guardia costiera libica per conto di Roma. E certo i marinai italiani non vogliono finire a fare gli addetti alla manutenzione delle motovedette donate dall’Italia ma che tra pochi giorni si coordineranno con Malta. «Mentre l’obiettivo dichiarato nell’accordo vi è il benessere del popolo libico e di quello maltese, il benessere delle principali vittime, cioè migranti, richiedenti asilo e rifugiati, non viene mai menzionato», ha commentato sul portale cattolico Newsbook il giudice maltese Giovanni Bonelli, già membro della Corte europea dei diritti dell’uomo. «Si potrebbe pensare - aggiunge - che questo memorandum si riferisca all’estrazione di minerali, non a degli esseri umani».Fonti delle Nazioni Unite contattate da “Avvenire” hanno reagito a caldo considerando l’intesa come una «regolamentazione di fatto dei respingimenti illegali».

      Negli anni scorsi più volte Avvenire ha documentato, anche con registrazioni audio, il collegamento diretto tra la Marina italiana e la Guardia costiera libica. Ma ora Malta si spinge oltre, ufficializzando una alleanza operativa che inoltre rischierà di causare conflitti con l’operazione navale europea Irini a guida italiana. Fonti delle Nazioni Unite contattate da Avvenire hanno reagito a caldo considerando l’intesa come una “regolamentazione di fatto dei respingimenti illegali”.

      https://www.avvenire.it/attualita/pagine/accordo-malta-libia-respingimento-migranti