back to the Immigration Detention Monitor

27 May 2020 – Malta

Migrants Swimming after Maltese Navy Boat Reportedly Pushed Back Migrant Dinghy Sending it to Italy, (
Migrants Swimming after Maltese Navy Boat Reportedly Pushed Back Migrant Dinghy Sending it to Italy, ("Footage appears to Show Maltese Navy Boat Pushing Back Migrant Dinghy and Sending it to Italy," Footage by Alarm Phone, Published by The Guardian, 19 May 2020,

Responding to the Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, a non-governmental actor in Malta reported that immigration detainees in the country have not been released despite the Covid-19 crisis and detention orders are still being issued. The source, who asked to remain anonymous but whose identity was verified by the GDP, said that non-governmental actors have been raising awareness regarding Covid-19 in detention centres by circulating posters, voice messages and videos to detainees as detainees are only tested for the disease if they exhibit symptoms. Malta has reportedly halted deportations and borders have been closed. According to the source, only vulnerable people arriving on boats from Libya via the Mediterranean route, such as pregnant women and children, have been allowed to disembark on the island.

The Maltese government is reportedly using private vessels, acting at the behest of its armed forces, in order to intercept migrant crossings and return refugees to Libyan detention centres. Evidence of Malta’s strategy to push migrants back to Libya was revealed by a woman who survived a Mediterranean crossing in which 12 people died in April. The woman stated that the boat on which she was attempting to reach Europe had been intercepted by a ship enlisted by the Maltese authorities, which took them back to Tripoli. Upon arrival in Libya, the passengers were moved to the detention centre of Tariq al-Sikka, where they remain. In a statement released on 15 April, authorities confirmed that it “coordinated the rescue of an immigrant boat assisted by a commercial vessel.” A spokesperson for Alarm Phone, a hotline service for migrants in distress at sea, said: “Twelve people have died while Malta and Europe were watching. We should never forget that these deaths are the direct result of Malta’s and Europe’s non-assistance policies, and their clear intention to let people die at sea. These deaths could and should have been prevented.”

On 20 May, it was reported that Malta’s armed forces allegedly turned away at gunpoint a boat carrying migrants from their waters, after giving them fuel and the GPS coordinates to reach Italy. One of the passengers told the Guardian that the armed forces explained that: “Malta has a virus called corona if you’ve heard about it. We can’t take you there because everyone is sick in Malta. And Malta is small and can’t take all of you.” The passenger added: “they gave us red life vests, a new engine and fuel and told us they would show us the route to Italy. Then they pointed guns at us and said: ‘We give you 30 minutes’.”