Malta’s armed forces have refused to provide figures on migrant rescue operations requested by Times of Malta, claiming their publication could endanger national security.
Maltese authorities have systematically refused to comment on reports claiming they are pushing back migrants, endangering their lives, and to release data on their rescue operations, the online edition of local daily Times of Malta said on Sunday, April 23.
The newspaper reported that, “for over a year”, the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) responsible for operations in the extensive Malta SAR region have “refused to say” how many people they rescued in the search and rescue zone, the number of those who disembarked in Malta or were taken to Italy and Libya, claiming the newspaper had requested the figures out of “curiosity”.
The Maltese newspaper said it had requested data to the Armed Forces of Malta, the interior ministry and the premier’s cabinet, citing European legislation on the right to information, after several NGOs alleged that Maltese authorities had violated international laws.
Authorities however refused to provide the data requested, claiming that “the release of such information would, or could reasonably be expected to cause irreparable harm and damage to security and/or defence of Malta,” the publication said.
The newspaper reported that authorities claimed the data was “of a sensitive nature” and that divulging information about the AFM’s operations would go against “national security interests”.
In May 2022, the daily appealed to the Office of the Information and Data Protection Commissioner, which has not yet decided on the case.