Tag Archives: Carm Mifsud Bonnici

Malta Says the 111 Rescued Migrants Aboard Spanish Frigate Are NATO’s Problem, Not Malta’s Problem

The stand-off between Malta, Spain, and NATO continues.  111 rescued migrants remain on board the Spanish Navy frigate, the Almirante Juan de Borbón.  Maltese authorities criticised the attempt to bring the rescued migrants to Malta and have said that the migrants should have been taken to Tunisia or Italy because both locations were closer to the original point of rescue.  Malta has now allowed a total of 5 migrants to be airlifted to Malta for medical care.  The frigate remains at sea near Malta with the 111 migrants, including women and children, and a crew of 250 sailors.

At a press conference yesterday, Maltese Interior Minister, Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, said that while Malta decided to allow the transfer of several rescued migrants to Malta for emergency medical treatment, it has no intention of allowing the other rescued migrants to be disembarked in Malta.  According to the Times of Malta, Mifsud Bonnici said “the problem is not Malta’s, it is Nato’s.  Malta is a sovereign state and it demands that it be respected as such. This is not a standoff with Spain or Italy and we await Nato’s replies.”

It is unclear from various media reports whether Italian authorities formally refused permission to the Spanish frigate to dock in Lampedusa, but some reports suggest there was communication with Italian authorities who said that Lampedusa’s immigrant reception facilities were at capacity.  Well over a thousand migrants have landed in Lampedusa in recent days.

There are also some media reports which suggest that the Spanish government may be taking the position that since the Spanish frigate is under NATO command as part of Operation Unified Protector, NATO therefore must decide where the migrants are to be disembarked.

The head of the Armed Forces of Malta has taken the bizarre position that the Spanish ship is well-equipped to care for the rescued migrants and that therefore there is no urgency in regard to removing the migrants from the ship for humanitarian reasons.

Meanwhile, the NATO naval embargo of Libya is missing one ship.  NATO had 17 ships under its command patrolling the Central Mediterranean, now there are 16 ships.  The Spanish frigate has been effectively removed from its embargo duties as it waits for a resolution to the stand-off.  If and when another migrant boat requires rescue by a ship under NATO command, will the NATO embargo be further weakened?  The obligations of NATO ships to rescue migrant boats in distress under SOLAS are clear, and NATO has repeatedly said that it will rescue migrant boats when required, but one must be fearful of a situation arising, as it does with commercial ships, where a NATO vessel’s commander may be less willing to conclude that a migrant boat is in need of rescue knowing that the act of rescuing the migrants may result in the NATO ship being removed from its mission because it is unable to quickly disembark the rescued migrants.

Click here (EN), here (EN), here (ES), here (IT), and here (IT) for articles.

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Filed under Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Spain

Malta Confirms that it Will Not Host Frontex Mission

The Sunday Times of Malta reports that Malta has again declined to host a Frontex mission because Malta objects to the rules of engagement for such missions which require under certain circumstances that intercepted migrants be brought to the territory of the Member State hosting the mission.  “‘If Frontex changes its mind and manages to convince the other member states about the rules of engagement for the mission it wants to hold in Malta, we will reconsider our position. However, at this stage, we have ruled out the possibility of hosting a Frontex mission’ said [Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici.]”  “Frontex sources said other member states had been sounded out on Malta’s demand to have different rules for its mission based on the ‘closest safe port’ concept. However, the Warsaw-based agency failed to convince them.”

Click here for article.

Click here, here, and here for previous posts on the Malta–Frontex negotiations.

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Filed under European Union, Frontex, Malta, Mediterranean, News

Maltese JHA Minister: Migrant Boats Have Rights of Passage and Rescue Not Always Needed

Maltese Justice and Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici is quoted by AP as saying that migrant boats leaving Libya “have the right of passage and nobody can stop them, not even our forces or a NATO ship.  As long as [the boats] are not in distress, then [there] is no issue.”

While Mifsud Bonnici’s observation about the right of passage in international waters is technically correct, given that all or virtually all of the migrant boats that have left Libya in recent weeks have been severely overloaded, all migrant boats leaving North Africa under the current situation should be considered to be in distress and in need of rescue.  Migrant boats departing from Libya with few exceptions must pass through the Maltese Search and Rescue Area and Malta should not avoid its rescue at sea obligations under international law by claiming that it is respecting a vessel’s right of passage.  The UNHCR has called upon “states, commercial shipping companies and others present in the Mediterranean to consider that all boats leaving Libya for Europe are likely to require assistance.”

Click here or here for AP article.

Click here for UNHCR statement.

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Maltese JHA Minister Doubts Migrants Are Being Pushed to Flee Libya

An article in the Malta Independent says that Maltese Justice and Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici believes it is unlikely that the asylum seekers who have reached Malta in recent weeks have been forced by anyone to flee Libya.  His view is at odds with the statements being made by some of the migrants who have recently arrived in both Lampedusa and Malta.

Mifsud Bonnici “said that he doesn’t think the thousands who have fled from the north African country so far have done so because they were pushed by some people. ‘I don’t think there are any people who are benefiting from this exodus of immigrants to Europe. From the information we have, there is no evidence to suggest that people are being pushed into boats and sent towards Europe. Most immigrants have sought pastures new simply because they fear for their lives. As I have said time and time before, this latest wave of immigration is different to what we have experienced before. Quite a lot of the immigrants who have come to Europe by boat over the past few weeks came with their families, are university graduates, and have a lot of work experience behind them,’ Dr Mifsud Bonnici said.”  The latest boat arrival in Malta carried mostly Libyan nationals.  Over 1100 persons have landed in Malta over the past six weeks.

Click here for article.

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Maltese Minister Says Malta Will Not Reconsider Its Detention of Migrants

Malta Today reports that Justice and Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici reaffirmed Malta’s detention law and disagrees with the comments made by COE Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg.  From Malta Today: “‘This [the detention policy] is compliant with Malta’s EU and other international obligations. As a matter of fact, the European Convention on Human Rights does not rule out detention,’ Mifsud Bonnici said, citing Article 5 (1)(f) of the Convention. … Mifsud Bonnici however said that the judgement in the [ECtHR’s] Massoud vs Malta case, ‘cannot, in any way be interpreted as constituting a condemnation of Malta’s detention policy. This has been proved and explained time and again.’”

Click here for article.

Click here for Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg’s statement.

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Filed under Commissioner for Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Statements

Laitinen in Malta Visit; Malta Still Not Willing to Host New Frontex Mission; Frontex Preparing Multiple Contingency Plans

Malta’s Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici met with Frontex Executive Director Ilkka Laitinen.  Mifsud Bonnici said Malta is unwilling to host a new Frontex mission due to its fear that intercepted or rescued migrants would be taken to Malta.  During a press conference (click here for article and short video), Laitinen said that Frontex was not willing to give estimates of the numbers of migrants it believes may seek to leave Libya, but said it was preparing plans for seven different scenarios.  The plans “could include strengthening air and maritime surveillance, increased capacity to deal with those seeking protection at ports and airports and an improved repatriation mechanism for those who did not meet the criteria for humanitarian protection.”  Laitinen reiterated that “push backs and diversions are not an option for people seeking protection.”  Laitinen did not address the burden sharing question other than to say that it was a political question that did not involve Frontex.

Click here, here, and here for articles.

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Laitinen to Visit Malta to Discuss New Frontex Mission

The Malta Independent reported yesterday that Frontex Director Ilkka Laitinen will visit Malta shortly “with a view to organising a Frontex mission that would be hosted by Malta but, [Justice and Home Affairs Minister] Dr Mifsud Bonnici stresses, not under the infamous guidelines that are being disputed [before the European Court of Justice] by Malta, Italy and the European Parliament.”  Dr Mifsud Bonnici said “I have also made it a precondition that if we are to host this Frontex mission, it would not be under those guidelines and there is an agreement on that.”

Malta’s primary objection to the Frontex Sea Border Rule is likely due to provisions which require that intercepted migrants be taken to the country hosting the Frontex mission under certain circumstances.  The relevant provision provides:

“2. Disembarkation- 2.1. The operational plan should spell out the modalities for the disembarkation of the persons intercepted or rescued, in accordance with international law and any applicable bilateral agreements. The operational plan shall not have the effect of imposing obligations on Member States not participating in the operation.  Without prejudice to the responsibility of the Rescue Coordination Centre, and unless otherwise specified in the operational plan, priority should be given to disembarkation in the third country from where the ship carrying the persons departed or through the territorial waters or search and rescue region of which that ship transited and if this is not possible, priority should be given to disembarkation in the host Member State unless it is necessary to act otherwise to ensure the safety of these persons.”

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has previously said that the Sea Border Rule guidelines can be negotiated by member states on a mission by mission basis and that before a mission starts participating member states can agree on different rules of engagement, which might include the sharing of responsibility where not all intercepted migrants would be brought to country hosting the mission.

Click here for Malta Independent article.

Click here for previous post regarding Malmström’s comments.

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Filed under European Union, Frontex, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News