Neville Gafà Brokers Controversial Deal Between Malta and Libya to Intercept Migrants – Al Marsad

The leading Maltese newspaper, The Times of Malta, disclosed a controversial deal between the Maltese Armed Forces and the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept migrants heading towards Europe and return them back to Libya. The newspaper also revealed that Neville Gafà, who faces serious allegations for his role in the Libyan medical visa scandal, was the intermediary responsible for brokering the agreement between Malta and Libya.

[Libyan, 11 November 2019] – The Times of Malta said: “Malta has negotiated an agreement with Libya, in a deal that sees the Armed Forces of Malta coordinating with the Libyan coast guard to intercept migrants heading towards Maltese waters.” The newspaper stressed that this “mutual cooperation” of intercepting migrants and returning them to Libya was a blatant violation of human rights laws.

A source explained to The Times of Malta that negotiations for the deal began a year ago. “We reached what you could call an understanding with the Libyans. When there is a vessel heading towards our waters, the Armed Forces of Malta coordinates with the Libyans who pick them up and take them back to Libya before they come into our waters and become our responsibility,” the source said according to the newspaper.

The government source said that had the agreement not been reached, the island would have been “drowning in migrants”. Furthermore, a spokesperson of the Maltese Prime Minister said that “bilateral meetings regarding various sectors were held on a regular basis, with Malta always acting in accordance with international law and regulation.”

He added, “The EU is actively advocating in favour of compliance with instructions of competent authorities and against the obstruction of operations of the Libyan EU-funded and trained coastguard to help support migration management and fight smuggling.”

According to The Times of Malta the Office of the Prime Minister refused to answer to a question on whether the Libyan coast guard had entered Malta’s search and rescue area at least once, or whether the Maltese Government recognized Libya as a safe port.

Scandal Follows Neville Gafà Yet Again

The newspaper also revealed the involvement of Neville Gafà, who is notorious in Malta and in Libya for repeated allegations of bribery in exchange for medical visas for Libyan officials. Gafà acted as an intermediary between Malta and Libya in the deal between the Maltese Armed Forces and the Libyan Coast Guard.

Neville Gafà is said to work within the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta, although his actual position seems to be always unclear. The exact ministry he works for and in what capacity in Malta is a mystery even for the Maltese. According to the Times of Malta, Gafà declined to “comment about any details of the report, and said that he couldn’t do so without permission from his superiors.”

The Maltese national Neville Gafà, who seems to be closely connected to Islamist leaders in Tripoli and was regularly very verbose in his support for Tripoli-based Islamists in his social media accounts and online discussion forums, first came to everyone’s attention in June and then in November 2018. It was during this period that it emerged that he had met with Haitham Tajouri, a militia leader of Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade militia, and also members of the Presidential Council such as Ahmed Maitiq, Interior Minister Fathi Pashagha and Health Minister Omer Bashir.

Although Gafà claimed claimed to be a Special Envoy of Malta, the meetings and the ensuing publicity and the lack of clarity on which capacity the meetings with Gafà took place, were a huge embarrassment to GNA officials. Yet Gafà backtracked, and in a statement to an Islamist media organ he said “all meetings were unofficial as no note verbal were exchanged for obvious reasons that I was visiting on a personal level.”  

In July 2019, however Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had said that the mystery diplomat Neville Gafà was employed as a coordinator within the Office of the Prime Minister. A few days before that statement, Muscat had said that Gafà was a government employee but that he did not know which ministry employed him.

Last month, it was reported by the Times of Malta that a Libyan man told court “that government official Neville Gafà had offered him €200,000 to €300,000 ‘so as not to testify’ in a case concerning payments for medical visas.” The man recalled Gafà telling him, along with the six-figure offer: “I am Muslim and you are Muslim and I want to solve this case in a friendly way.” The court case continues.

Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s special envoy for the Central Mediterranean, said he believes that such deals may constitute a violation of maritime law. “The problem is that the migrants were disembarked in Libya. That’s certainly a violation of maritime laws. It’s clear that Libya isn’t a safe port,” he said. According to the report, “the UNHCR office in Rome has also reached out to the authorities for an explanation, but is still waiting for a response.”

The Libyan Coast Guard, and its members such as the human trafficker and UN-sanctioned al-Bija, have been linked to a number of human rights abuses, including torture. An NGO also accused the Libyan Coast Guard of hindering one of their operations and putting several lives in danger.

© Al Marsad English (2019)

Source: The Times of Malta and other news agencies.


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