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Migrant resistance against privatized push-backs
In the November 2018 Nivin incident, 93 migrants were rescued by a merchant ship as they escaped Libya, only to be returned to the country they had fled. After the captured passengers occupied the hold of the ship and resisted disembarkation for 10 days, they were violently removed by Libyan security forces and faced grave violations in detention. In the March 2019 El Hiblu incident, the 114 passengers who were rescued by the merchant ship managed to avert being brought back to Libya thanks to their collective resistance, and arrived safely in Malta. However, upon arrival, five passengers were arrested under suspicion of criminal activities, and three youth were charged with a number of serious offences, including under counter-terrorism legislation. Both these incidents are part of the same pattern of privatized push-back - when EU actors use merchant ships to rescue and bring back migrants to a country in which their lives are at risk. This pattern emerged immediately after Italian Interior minister Matteo Salvini implemented his “closed ports” policy in June 2018. As rescue NGOs were further criminalised, and European state actors further withdrew from operating rescue, this policy created a rescue gap that the so-called Libyan coastguards were unable to fill. The Italian and Libyan coastguards increasingly called upon merchant ships transiting in the area to carry out rescue and refoulement by proxy. It is this practice and policy that we have documented in our report on the Nivin case.1 Our report has served as the basis for a legal case brought on 18 December 2019 by Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) to the United Nations Human Rights Committee on behalf of one of the survivors who was shot and removed from the Nivin. The Nivin and the El Hiblu cases also demonstrate the same pattern of migrant resistance. They exemplify the tremendous courage, collective intelligence and solidarity enacted by the passengers as they resisted the violation of their rights. This, too, is a pattern that has emerged strongly since June 2018. We stand in solidarity with migrants exercising their right to resistance. 1