A constitutional case has been filed by 50 people over breach of rights by Maltese authorities in pushback operation to Libya in April. After a series of shipwrecks the death-toll rapidly climbs on the Med and returns to Libya continue.

On 11 April the NGO hotline Alarmphone alerted Maltese authorities to a boat heading for the Maltese SAR zone. Three days after the initial alert and after 39 hours in the Maltese SAR zone the people onboard, whose physical and psychological condition was deteriorating, were picked up by a fishing vessel acting as an agent of state. After being ‘pushed back’ to Libya, they were placed in a detention centre where they were made to suffer further inhuman and degrading treatment. 50 applicants, and two siblings of people who lost their life during the pushback operation in April, have filed a constitutional case against the Maltese prime minister, the home affairs minister and the commander of the Armed Forces over breaches of their human rights under the Constitution, the European Convention and the EU Charter of human rights. Violations include inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to life, collective expulsion, the right to seek asylum and to contest the pushback, and a lack of effective remedy.

On 12 November, in the latest of a series of tragic shipwrecks on the central Mediterranean, 74 people lost their lives when a boat carrying 120 capsized off the coast of Khums, Libya. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) 47 survivors have been brought to shore by the so-called Libyan coast guard and fishermen and 31 bodies have been retrieved while the search for castaways continues. “The mounting loss of life in the Mediterranean is a manifestation of the inability of states to take decisive action to redeploy much needed, dedicated search and rescue capacity in the deadliest sea-crossing in the world,” said Federico Soda, IOM Libya chief of mission.

On 11 November 6 people, among them a six-month old baby died when a dinghy carrying 120 people went down off coast of Sabratha, Libya. Reportedly, volunteers from the Spanish Open Arms vessel, currently the only search and rescue ship not under seizure in European ports, threw themselves into the sea trying to save as many lives as possible. On 10 November at least 13 people drowned when a boat capsized off the coast of Libya with 11 others returned to shore by the so-called Libyan coastguard.  Further, the NGO hotline Alarmphone lost contact with 75 people drifting in the Maltese SAR zone with authorities unresponsive on 12 November and another 24 people remain unaccounted for off the Libyan coast.

The Maritime Update from IOM Libya reveals that 958 people were intercepted at sea and returned to Libya between 3-9 November.

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Photo: ECRE

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.