Neville Gafa was “operating under Libyan jurisdiction” when he ran Malta’s legally questionable migrant pushback scheme. He was also ‘working from home’ and his car, not at a desk in the OPM.
No one’s favourite hot potato seems to believe he’s living inside the Libyan embassy — a slice of sovereign territory that belongs to another country — rather than Mellieħa.
He admitted he got his orders from the OPM, but said, “My role was never inside Maltese territorial waters but in Libyan ones, so that jurisdiction applies.”
Of course, he was sitting in Malta when he did it. If a crime was committed, then that jurisdiction applies.
Anyway, someone else hired the actual vessels on that fateful Easter Sunday when 52 asylum seekers were sent back to Libya, after being told to haul the dead bodies of their friends out of the sea.
Gafa just talked to Libya’s so-called ‘coast guard’ and the failed State’s home affairs minister to get rid of the human problem floating Malta’s way.
Okay, yes, he was also in constant contact with Finance Minister Clyde Caruana — then OPM chief of staff — and AFM Commander Jeffrey Curmi throughout. Malta’s Armed Forces even paid for the fuel and expenses of the crew of the fishing boat they hired to do the job “some three or four times”, according to ‘Dar Es Salaam 1’ owner Carmelo Grech.
The AFM couldn’t very well use its own patrol boats to take waterlogged migrants back to a failed State. The foreign press would have a field day with that. Besides, official patrol boats are only used to frighten those floating in the sea by buzzing around them at high speed. That’ll teach them to drown in Malta’s territorial waters.
You’ll remember this problem went away a month later when Robert Abela found new ways to give your money to friends of friends. Captain Morgan to the rescue. No, not the 17th century Welsh pirate. The one that invades Comino each summer with drunken tourist hordes.
The company was hurting when COVID-19 kicked the tourist industry in the guts last year, but Abela brightened their summer with €1.7 million for the Zammit Tabonas of Fortina Group.
Sure, the tour boats weren’t designed for open water; they’re only supposed to go four nautical miles from land. But being fit for purpose never matters when it comes to direct orders. The owners are Labour Party donors.
Anyway, the problem was solved — at even greater expense — when the government chartered a larger boat for €33,500 per day (over €1 million per month) to bob around outside the borders as a floating detention centre.
As for Neville Gafa’s role in the Easter weekend scandal, you’ll be pleased to know this selfless saint did it all for free, and he’d do it again “if the Maltese government asked me to” because, you see, he just loves the country so much.
His actions saved “hundreds if not thousands of migrants” over the years by sending them back to a civil war plagued shore, where they could be detained, beaten, raped and enslaved. But at least they weren’t in Malta.
The former spectacles sales clerk turned deniable diplomat would have you believe he was “operating under Libyan jurisdiction” but taking orders from the OPM, who used the Armed Forces to fuel up hired fishing boats.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like State-coordinated pushback to me.
The asylum seekers Gafa gave the bum’s rush are suing Malta over the incident, claiming their rights were breached under the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. They have a strong case, and it only adds to Malta’s woes.
The EU’s response to the migrant crisis has been inconsistent and ineffective, and Malta has legitimate grievances, as do the other countries on the front lines. But Gafa’s way won’t solve it.
Making secret deals with Libya and hiring random fishing boats to do your dirty work only reinforces the tainted impression the rest of Europe has about the passport-peddling Member State on its southern fringes.
This week’s hearing also raises a larger question. Why is it this stuff only seems to come out in court?
Gafa’s Libyan medical visa scandal only went to court because he filed a libel suit against the newspaper that first reported the story. He didn’t expect the Libyans he allegedly screwed over to testify against him after he tried to buy their silence.
Thanks to the court, we also learned he allegedly claimed hundreds of hours of overtime payments while receiving a generous ‘disturbance allowance’, car allowance, and free mobile and internet connection courtesy of the Maltese taxpayer.
And it took a parliamentary question to get your elected officials to admit who the government lackey no one wanted to claim was actually working for.
As everyone suspected, Gafa was employed by Joseph Muscat’s own office from January 2019 until the dawn of Robert Abela. Before that, he was Chris ‘he doesn’t work for me’ Fearne’s problem, filling the role of Projects Manager at the Foundation for Medical Services, though no one there seems to remember seeing him.
He got his public service start as a customer care assistant in the Ministry for Health during the halcyon days of Konrad Mizzi. In each case, he was employed as a ‘person of trust’.
Keep an eye on this court case, and the many appeals it’s sure to launch.
The government’s deniable messenger to Libyan slave traders has made Malta an active participant in human trafficking. And thanks to him, you are implicated in it.