We’re send­ing them back to hell

Malta Independent - - Focus -

“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.”

“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 per­spec­tive 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.

Chi­nese paint­ing "The Kangxi Em­peror's South­ern In­spec­tion Tour, Scroll VI" by Wang Hui, a 21 me­ters long Vis­ual Record of Life in South­ern China in the 17th Cen­tury that served to re­in­force the po­lit­i­cal le­git­i­macy of the Kangxi Em­peror, is dis­played dur­ing a me­dia preview for the Sotheby's in Hong Kong yes­ter­day. The paint­ing is for ex­hi­bi­tion only. Photo: AP

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