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Malta must drop charges against 3 refugees who took control of their rescuers ship, activists demand

‘Resisting illegal push-backs to Libya is not a crime,’ Free the El Hiblu 3 campaign says

MALTA must drop all charges against three young men who prevented the illegal return of more than 100 refugees to Libya last year by commandeering their rescuers’ ship, campaigners demanded today.  

On March 26, 2019, the merchant vessel El Hiblu 1 rescued 108 refugees from a rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean, but European maritime authorities ordered the ship’s crew to return them to Libya. 

The refugees protested against this and three — teenagers aged 15, 16 and 19 at the time — took control of the ship and steered it to Malta, where they were arrested and charged with terrorism. 

The three were released on bail last November but could spend decades behind bars if found guilty. 

“Resisting illegal push-backs to Libya is not a crime,” the Free the El Hiblu 3 campaign said today. 

“We demand the immediate dismissal of the trial. We demand the end of all illegal returns to Libya and mass human-rights violations resulting form Europe’s collaboration with the so-called Libyan coastguards.

“We will continue to work towards corridors of solidarity and the fair relocation of refugees and other migrants in welcoming cities all over Europe.”

The campaign was initiated by Maltese NGOs African Media Association Malta and Electronic Music Malta, refugee rescue organisations Mediterranea Saving Humans and Sea Watch, as well as the activist network Alarm Phone.

More than 60 other human-rights organisations have joined the campaign. 

“European authorities should never instruct shipmasters to bring rescued people back to Libya since this constitutes a clear breach of international law of the sea and a grave violation of fundamental rights,” Mediterranea Saving Humans’ Lucia Gennari said. 

“The three teenagers should be seen as heroes,” Alarm Phone’s Maurice Stierl said. “They prevented 108 survivors from being returned to inhumane conditions in Libya.”

Visit for more information on the campaign and to watch a short documentary on th El Hiblu 3. 


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