JRS Malta welcomes ground-breaking court judgement

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Malta welcomes the ground breaking court judgment in the case of the two Somali nationals forcibly returned to Libya in 2004.

On 29 November the court ruled that the government decision to forcibly return Abdul Hakim Hassan Abdulle and Kasim Ibrahim Nur to Libya violated their human rights. After being sent back without being allowed to apply for asylum, they were imprisoned in miserable conditions, tortured, dumped on the desert border and left to die there.

“This judgment is important because it stresses that governments cannot just send people to a country where there is a real risk that they will face serious harm and hope to get away with it by claiming they did not know of the dangers, which were well documented by credible international organisations,” said Dr Katrine Camilleri, JRS Malta director. 

“In a world where governments are resorting to ever more aggressive border control measures, such as push-backs to countries known to have very poor human rights records, the significance of this judgement cannot be underestimated.”

As the court makes clear, every single person, whether or not he enters the country legally, must be protected from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, simply because he is a human being and has fundamental rights that cannot be denied.

The judgment highlights the unimaginable horrors that Abdul Hakim and Kasim endured in Libya, because this basic principle was disregarded. It also reminds us that they were two out of six people deported from Malta; the rest died.

This case is particularly worrying as the asylum seekers concerned had landed in Malta, but they were sent back to Libya without being allowed to apply for asylum.

“Given what is at stake for the people sent back, we must be ultra-vigilant to make sure this does not happen again,” Dr Camilleri said.

It is now less likely that asylum seekers landing in Malta will be returned without being allowed to apply for protection, as procedures for people to apply for protection have improved since 2009. However, with the overthrow of Gaddafi and the end of the conflict in Libya, there is a real risk that neighbouring countries, like Malta and Italy, will try to reach agreements with the new government to return migrants who left from there.

“Although the situation in Libya may have changed, the safety of migrants and asylum seekers there is still far from guaranteed. Malta must commit to ensuring that no one is sent to any country where he cannot obtain protection and where he risks serious human rights violations,” Dr Camilleri added. 

Related links:
Safety of asylum seekers in Libya still far from guaranteed - JRS (timesofmalta.com)
JRS: Malta must never again send migrants to be tortured and die in the desert (maltastar.com)

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