Jesuits in Malta are calling for an international response to protect civilians in Libya and to assist in the evacuation of sub-Saharan nationals whose governments have been unable or unwilling to remove their citizens from dangerous conditions amid the chaos in Libya.
Responding to the use of deadly force against unarmed protestors in Tripoli, in a statement released Feb. 28, Maltese Jesuits said: "The international community must now act justly to stop the massacres and to assist the Libyan people in safeguarding their fundamental human rights." The Jesuits wrote: "When Jesus was on his way to Calvary, Simon, a man from modern-day Libya, was ordered by the Roman soldiers to carry His cross. Today we are witnessing the Calvary of people in Libya who are paying with their lives to exercise their fundamental human rights."
The United States and European powers have made dramatic efforts to remove their nationals from the danger zone in recent days and are attempting to return thousands of desperate workers to Egypt. But the plight of sub-Saharan Africans who are also attempting to escape the violence remains for the most part unaddressed. Many of these seeking refuge are especially concerned about their vulnerability. They fear being mistaken for or associated with the sub-Saharan mercenaries that have been deployed to brutal effect against anti-Gadhafi forces throughout Libya.
“Unable to obtain the protection of their government, asylum seekers are stuck in Libya, where they are extremely vulnerable to attacks,” said Jesuit Father Joseph Cassar, J.R.S. Malta director. “In the past days we have heard reports of innocent sub-Saharan Africans being beaten, stabbed and even killed, as they are wrongly suspected of being mercenaries hired by Gaddafi to kill the Libyan people.”
JRS Malta therefore "earnestly appeals to EU Member States, including Malta, and the rest of the international community to take immediate and concrete action to provide protection to this very vulnerable population by providing resettlement opportunities for them.
While commending Malta’s immediate and effective response to the crisis, JRS Malta appealed to Maltese authorities to make an "extraordinary humanitarian gesture" and offer safe transit to asylum seekers so Malta could become a site of temporary refuge.
“It is clear that urgent, multi-lateral action is needed, as Malta cannot do this alone,” Father Cassar added.