Asylum seekers sue government over Easter pushback to Libya

Law Courts
Miguela Xuereb

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A group of 52 asylum seekers who had been pushed back to Libya by the Maltese authorities on the fishing vessel Dar al Salaam have filed a court application demanding to be allowed their asylum applications on Wednesday. The group is also seeking damages.

Among those filing the application which was signed by lawyers Paul Borg Olivier and Eve Borg Constanzi, are relatives of two individuals who had lost their lives during the stand off.

Back in April, the group of asylum seekers were on an unseaworthy boat in the Maltese search and rescue before they were transferred onto a fishing vessel which returned the individuals to war-torn Libya.

After the coronavirus outbreak in Malta, the government had declared its ports to be closed claiming that it could not guarantee rescue at sea.

The boat on which this group of people were fleeing on from Libya was spotted by a FRONTEX aircraft on 11 April 2020. The group was left for at least three days at sea without any assistance. The fishing vessel Dar al Salam 1 was later contracted to take the asylum seekers on board before transferring them to Libya.

Until the rescue took place, members of the group had died including Mogos Tesfamichael Welday and Filimon Mengsteab Ghebremedhi whose relatives are filing the consitutional case against Prime Minister Robert Abela, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri, ad Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi.

The lawyers argued that as an agent of the State, the Dar Al Salaam had a duty of non-refoulment and could not be sent back to its home port as described by the Prime Minister. This went contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, the lawyers added.

The asylum seekers who were returned to Libya were subsequently arrested and subjected to torture and degrading treatment.

In their application, the plaintiffs requested the court to declare that Malta has violated several human rights of the asylum seekers under the constitution as well as under European law. They also requested the court to allow them to make their asylum requests according to international, European and Maltese laws.

The plaintiffs are: Yonas Rezene Gebremicel, Merhawi Germay Asgedom, Mogos Yohannes Mered, Haji Nesredin,Teklu Seum, Aliksander Germay Yemane, Takhlit Shesai Garamadin, Tsega Efrem Kebrom, Diana Mahari Areyya, Salam Mahari Tawledai, Rahwa Hakous Youhans, Welday Habte, Abiel Yohanes, Tarik Teweldbrhan, Wehabezgie Weldu, Efrem Habtu, Hamed Ker Mehamed Ker, Gyotom Mehrtab, Roha Gabri, Abdu Mahmud, Filmon Gebrezgabher, Yassin Adem, Medhani Fetsum, Yemani Gabremiskal,Mogos Fesahatsen, Ayoub Barakhtab, Marhoi Abrahim, Hainok Zaret, Saead Alaminy, Mekele Germay, Dejan Negos, Fatsu Makeyal, Merhawi Nagasi, Robil Fishaha, Sadal Hishi Kidano, Filimon Rezene,Walde Zorob, Hagus Yemani, Younatan Awagargesh, John Gany Dar Jiech, Gai Riak Jith, Abraham Puok Deng, Chuol Nhial Jieng, Gatwech Ruot Nyachon, Karash Yasser Ibrahim, Wal Kuol Bok, Alisa Nyakuol, Maria Philter Gatkuos, Gaiek Gatkuoth Tang,and Nourin Ahmed Adam.

The case is being supported and funded by NGO Repubblika. Anyone who would like to donate to the cause may visit the NGO’s website.