Malta’s Prime Minister, Robert Abela has urged Libya and Tunisia to combat human trafficking.
The Independent Malta newspaper reported that Abela called on “all neighbouring countries, particularly those in the northern region of Africa, to have all the necessary resources to fight human traffickers.”
He added that “resources should also be allocated to create wealth and opportunities in their countries, so people are not forced to risk their lives by taking dangerous sea journeys.”
To weaken the position of human traffickers, the PM proposed returning those who enter Malta illegally, and not eligible for asylum to their home countries. The report concluded by stating that “failing to use the asylum system appropriately would be unfair to those who deserve protection.”
In May, several NGO’s accused Malta of coordinating an “illegal” pushback with the Libyan authorities of 500 migrants, according to the Times of Malta.
In a joint statement, Alarm Phone, Sea-Watch, Mediterranea Saving Humans, and Emergency said that a large boat with around 500 people in distress, located in Malta’s Search and Rescue (SAR), has been seized and taken back to Libya.
The NGO’s also reported that relatives of the migrants are claiming the “abducted” asylum seekers were taken to a Benghazi prison.
55 children and 45 women were among the 500 people from Syria, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Pakistan aboard the boat, Alarm Phone said. The migrants reported their engine had stopped working 30 nautical miles from the Maltese SAR zone.
Alarm Phone says the situation “worsened throughout the day, with the boat taking in water and several merchant vessels passing by and not intervening.”
The last time Alarm Phone spoke to the group was on Wednesday morning, when they said they were still adrift. Eventually, Sea-Watch’s aircraft Seabird 2, arrived at the last known position and searched for the boat in distress. As did the life support vessel of the NGO Emergency, and other boats of the civil fleet.