Inquiry finds evidence of a human trafficking intermediary

The inquiry conducted by Magistrate Joe Mifsud into the allegations of voluntary homicide revealed, inter alia, that one of the rescued immigrants was in contact with a person in Malta via mobile phone. It also emerged that the immigrants were told that the Alan Kurdi vessel would rescue them. Testimony revealed that they did not want to be rescued by the Maltese Armed Forces. The inquiry found no evidence implicating the Prime Minister, the Army commander or the crew of the P52 patrol boat in either a homicide or an attempted homicide, and found that Malta had fulfilled its international obligations.

The inquiry was carried out pursuant to a complaint by Republikka of possible human trafficking intermediaries having a presence in Malta after it transpired that one of the 66 immigrants who was rescued in April had the name of a person living in Malta on his list of mobile contacts. Magistrate Joe Mifsud ordered the Police to investigate this contact in order to establish what role he may have played in organizing the trip from Libya to Malta.

From the testimony of the immigrants it emerged that they left Garabulli in Libya and their destination was Europe. Amir Sabeel, an immigrant who testified in the inquiry said that before they began their journey from Libya they were told by traffickers that they would be met by the the German NGO vessel Alan Kurdi and that it would take care of them. Another immigrant testified that they did not want to be rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta and constantly asked Alarm Phone that they be rescued by the Alan Kurdi or Sea Watch vessels.

The Magistrate who heard the testimony of 156 people, noted that from the very beginning there was a plan to create a rescue situation in the middle of the sea also because the dinghy with 66 immigrants only had a 40 horsepower engine with a minimum supply of fuel.

On the allegations that were published, even by the New York Times, that soldiers on board the P52 had sabotaged the dinghy engine’s kill switch and allow it to get carried by the sea currents, the expert in the inquiry explained that this was a cable that turned off the engine suddenly rendering it more safe to carry out the rescue operation. The alleged sabotage was dismissed by a video clip that was elevated in the investigation showing immigrants being instructed on how to turn off this kill switch.

Regarding the allegation that the immigrants spent five days at sea, on the basis of telephone and GPS data, the inquiry found that from the time they left Libya until the rescue operation took place, three days nineteen hours and forty-five minutes had passed.

In conclusion, the inquiring magistrate Magistrate Mifsud said there should be a mechanism to protect the reputation of the Armed Forces or the Police from false allegations. Dr Mifsud insisted that a legal process must be built on evidence and facts.

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