Photo Credit: JONATHAN BORG
Three Black Migrant Teenagers Are Being Accused Of Terrorism In Malta, Here's Why
Three Black migrant teens are being accused of terrorism in Malta that would put them in jail for the rest of their life.
The alleged acts of terrorism in Malta started when Lamin— who was only 15 at the time he was accused— was taken into handcuffs by Maltese police after making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.
After running away at the age of 13, Lamin made it to Libya and cleaned houses for three months with no pay until his bosses offered to help him travel to Europe, as reported in Amnesty International.
He was traveling in a small boat known as a dinghy from the Libyan coast when smugglers started shooting at him and the other passengers on board.
An EU patrol plane saw the passengers sinking and asked a passing oil tanker that was en route to Turkey to assist the passengers. It was clear to the passengers that the ship was not a rescue ship. When they asked the captain where they were going, the captain told the passengers that he was instructed to wait and more boats would eventually come to assist them with their journey to Europe.
Lamin was the only one on the boat who spoke English and translated what they thought was good news to the passengers. Many of them broke out into song and dance to rejoice to get out of Libya.
But the other boats never came.
By the morning, the tanker they were on called “El Hiblu 1” made the journey back to Libya and when others realized they were heading back to the very placed they were leaving, a commotion erupted.
Lamin told BBC that some people screamed and threatened to jump overboard to their death versus being sent back to Libya.
Nadar came out of his cabin to confront the situation by asking “to speak to the boy who knows English,” referring to Lamin.
He didn’t want to get involved and some of the migrants turned on him and accused him of lying about going to Europe.
Two other teenagers— 19-year-old Abdalla from Guinea and 16-year-old Abdul from the Ivory Coast— were trying to calm the others down. All three of them agreed to speak to the captain in his cabin. They explained to Nadar that people were upset because they feared they would die if they returned to Libya.
“Maybe he felt sorry for us,” Lamin said, “but at this point, he agreed that if people calmed down, he would take us to Europe. He said he didn’t have enough fuel to get to Italy, but he would take us to Malta instead.”
The “Terrorists” Have Arrived
When Captain Nadar set sail for the island, he told Maltese authorities that he was not in control of his ship. When they arrived, preliminary terrorism charges were made against Lamin, Abdalla, and Abdul. They became known as the “El Hiblu Three.”
The other passengers and the captain were free to go.
The captain, Nadar, still claims he had no control of the vessel. The incident happened in 2019 and Lamin has not been given the chance to explain what happened in court even though Nadar’s claims have been proven false.
Lamin spent eight months in jail before he was released on bail. He is now confined to a center for young migrants, where he is terrified by the thoughts of spending his life in prison for a misunderstanding.
“How am I a terrorist?” he asks. “I didn’t fight, I didn’t shout. Terrorists kill innocent people, I only wanted to help people understand each other. There were a lot of people on that boat bigger and stronger than us three. If this had been a hijack, they would have been the ones inside the cabin – but the captain chose us.”
Not only were the young men denied to testify about the events, but the more than 100 migrants onboard have not given their statements either.
That all changed in 2021, after a series of complaints from the trio’s defense lawyer, Neil Falzon. Prosecutors finally summoned the first migrant witness.
“There are more than 100 people with crucial information about what happened, but as time goes by it is getting harder to find them and memories have faded,” he said.
Many are no longer in Malta.
One migrant onboard tells the BBC that the three men are “peacemakers.”
“These three boys, they saved us all. If they hadn’t been there with us, I doubt any one of us would be here now,” one of the passengers stated.
In the meantime, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights says the charges are “disproportionate” and pleading with the Maltese authorities to reconsider. The Catholic Church has also publicly criticized the case and the archbishop of Malta has asked for the charges to be dropped.
The trio’s next court date isn’t set again until October and with more than 100 witnesses, they worry that it could take years to get through a full trial.