The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Migration - We’re sending them back to hell

Thursday, 24 September 2020, 07:51 Last update: about 27 days ago

“One night at 3am, some criminals came in our home. They beat my wife. I fought back. They stabbed me in a leg and said, ‘If you move, we shoot her.’ They kidnapped us and took us to a hangar outside of Tripoli. They asked for $20,000 per person. There were 16 or 17 people in the hangar – from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia. We stayed about 15 days… They beat people. When you arrive, they put you naked, beat the men and rape the women. After two weeks, I took a chance and ran away.”

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“For 15 days, they beat us with iron rods, they beat us with hoses, they beat us with anything they have. They ask us to pay 6,000 Libyan dinars [around $4,400] for each, whether an adult or a baby.

“In Bani Walid, I was beaten, prevented from eating and drinking so frequently that I wasn’t able to walk and had problems in my kidney. I stayed in Bani Walid for five months. I became sick.”

These are just three shocking excerpts from a new report by Amnesty International, titled ‘Between life and death’, which details the experiences of some migrants in Libya, before they risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean in search for some semblance of a decent life.

They are not new stories. We have heard similar tales time and time again, but it helps to bring them up again to remind some people in this country about the real reasons why people flee Africa in the direction of Europe.

Some among us speak of migrants as if they were not human beings like us - every effort is made to dehumanise them and portray them as rapists, thieves and vandals.

While not all those who reach our shores are ideal citizens, the vast majority are people who want the same things as us in life: a stable job and a safe place to raise their children.

Those who make full use of their social media platforms to spew hatred against migrants and refugees and to sow the seeds of division would do well to read this report. It might give them a different perpective on the real reasons behind the migration phenomenon. Not all migrants are resource-sucking parasites, as they are often described. Most of them just want a peaceful life, like we do. Everyone deserves that much.

One might make the argument that Malta is “full up” and can’t take any more refugees in, but the fact remains that these are people, not numbers, and they are running away from situations we could not even dream of in our worst nightmares.  

But this is not just about the general public.

The Amnesty report, in fact, states that the Maltese government is also “keen” on co-operating with Libya to prevent arrivals by sea “regardless of the human rights consequences.”

In the first half of 2020, Maltese authorities were implicated in multiple failures to respect and protect the rights of refugees and migrants at sea, in a clear attempt to further outsource control of the central Mediterranean to Libyan authorities, it says.

“Under Maltese co-ordination, people were pushed back to Libya, left stranded at sea in danger of drowning, and unlawfully detained for weeks on board private vessels meant for brief pleasure cruises.”

And a recent agreement signed between the two countries is clearly intended at sending people back to Libya, it adds.

We acknowledge the fact that Malta has its limitations, and the situation has only been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic. We also acknowledge the fact that the EU has only delivered empty talk and has given no real help to countries like Malta and Italy on the migration issue.

But the fact remains that sending migrants back to the abovementioned horrific conditions in Libya is nothing short of criminal.

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