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JRS report: asylum seekers in Malta should not be returned to Libya
February 04, 2014

JRS report: asylum seekers in Malta should not be returned to Libya
Upon reaching Libya, refugees, often from sub-Saharan Africa, are subject to a myriad of human rights abuses described in the Jesuit Refugee Service Malta Report, 'Beyond Imagination.' (photo by Sara Prestiani)
The JRS publication is based on interviews with asylum seekers from Eritrea and Somalia. In the words of one of them, life for sub-Saharan African asylum seekers in Libya is "beyond imagination." Conditions are so bad that dying is preferable to returning.

(Valletta, Malta) February 5, 2014 — A Jesuit Refugee Service Malta report concludes that asylum seekers should not be returned to Libya for any reason whatsoever because their safety, lives and freedoms are at risk. In Libya, they have virtually no chance of getting protection.

This is the central and unequivocal conclusion of Beyond Imagination, a Jesuit Refugee Service Malta publication documenting the experiences of asylum seekers arriving in Malta through Libya, launched on Monday at an event in Valletta.

"Through this publication we wanted to highlight the consequences of return to Libya for asylum seekers, by bringing to light the stories we hear repeatedly when they arrive in Malta. Most have suffered horrific abuse — including indefinite detention in miserable conditions, beatings, rape and other forms of sexual abuse — and are denied the possibility of obtaining any kind of protection," said Katrine Camilleri, JRS Malta Director, at the launch on Monday.

"So we are reiterating our call to the government to refrain from actions that will result, directly or indirectly, in the return of migrants to Libya until the situation there has drastically improved and the Libyan government puts in place effective measures to safeguard human rights and guarantee access to protection in practice."

The JRS publication is based on interviews with asylum seekers from Eritrea and Somalia. In the words of one of them, life for sub-Saharan African asylum seekers in Libya is "beyond imagination." Conditions are so bad that dying is preferable to returning. All of those interviewed described a life of constant fear and insecurity — of total powerlessness shaped by forces beyond their control, where the only option they have is to risk their lives in search of protection elsewhere. 

JRS Malta stresses that any talk of Libya being part of the solution to the challenges presented by irregular immigration has to be seen in the light of conditions on the ground there. While Malta clearly has the right to control immigration, this control has to be exercised within the parameters set by the country's obligations under human rights law. These obligations bind Malta to ensure that no one is returned to a country where s/he will face serious violations of their rights and where s/he is unable to obtain protection if needed.

"While immigration control is entirely legitimate, we are not permitted to secure our borders at the cost of other people's lives and safety," Dr Camilleri said.


For further information contact:
Mark Cachia S.J., Jesuit Refugee Service Malta Communicatons Officer; tel. +356 7 994 4240.
James Stapleton, Jesuit Refugee Service International Communications Coordinator; tel.: 39 06 69868 468; +39 346 234 3841.
For copies of 'Beyond Imagination,' contact JRS Malta or download the report by clicking here.

JRS works in more than 50 countries worldwide to meet the educational, health, social and other needs of approximately 700,000 refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, more than half of whom are women. JRS services are available to refugees and displaced persons regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs.


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Press Contact Information
Mr Christian Fuchs
communicationsdirector@jesuit.org
202-629-5946