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On 28 March 2021, it’s been two years since the Merchant Vessel ElHiblu1 arrived in Malta. Upon arrival, three teenagers were arrested and accused of a multiplicity of crimes, including acts of terrorism. From the beginning, human rights activists, networks and NGOs have been working on getting attention to the case. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani appealed to the Maltese authorities to reconsider the charges against the three teenagers already in 2019. In March 2020 we’ve launched our documentation as well as political and legal context of the case on the campaign-website. Simultaneously Amnesty International has launched a write4rights-campaign that received attention world-wide. In 2021 we mobilized many networks and public actors to speak up for the El Hiblu 3. Find a variety of voices in our social media channels under @elhiblu3 and selected statements here:
  • A letter of 26 MEPs addressed to the Attorney General of Malta, demanding a termination of the proceedings
  • A statement by the European Democratic Lawyers signed by 21 international legal associations
  • A press release from the Migrants Commission, JRS Malta and the Justice and Peace Commission
  • Our statement, requesting the immediate termination of prosecuting the #ElHiblu3 signed by 29 Human Rights Groups
You can join the mobilization through: → publishing social media selfies holding a solidarity sign with “Free El Hiblu 3” / “Drop the charges” → alerting your network → distributing the hashtag: Free #ElHiblu3 → sharing and endorsing our social media channels instagram: elhiblu3 / → twitter: @ElHiblu3 → writing statements yourself, organise actions We endorse all responsible actors, public personas and European decision makers to express their concern about proceeding with the unfair trial and demand the Maltese authorities to drop the accusations immediately.


Passengers from the El Hiblu 1 declare their solidarity towards the three accused teenagers. The fundamental part of this campaign are their statements and the experience they made. Nine of the 108 survivors share their experience, fear and perception of the situation.
To protect their identity, names of individuals are not disclosed.

Testimony from F.*

We were happy at first. We then asked, "Where are you going to take us? ", he says he's going to take us to Malta. He started his boat, we asked him where you want to take us back, he said "I have called my friend who's in Malta, he said to bring you back, so we need to meet. He went somewhere, he stopped and said he was going to call. So we also waited there. He lit up the boat, he took it all the way to Libya. He drove for two hours, we ended up in Libya. As soon as people saw the lights, they started to shout. He told us that this is not Libya. We say we know Libya. People started screaming, he says that we need to calm down. I was not well, directly to go to prison, to prison of torture. Because there when they catch you, they put you in jail, they rape women, they do whatever, so everybody was scared. We women say, that we won't go down if the Libyans come, we won't go down. We took the decision. He saw that everyone was crying, he took his boat, he left. Somewhere along the way, he left, he stopped his boat, he said wait, I'll call. Malta, he called Malta to say "I have a boat here there are people who are sick". I have to defend my brothers against this accusation, that they are terrorists, we came, we had nothing. Even the clothes we had, when you go up inside the boat, you wear only one outfit, you have no shoes, you have no phone. You just get in the boat. He said on the way down that the people around were armed, these things, these accusations. But we were there, we had nothing. They're the ones who saved us, they're the ones who tried to talk, the captain spoke nothing but English, so they understood each other.

Testimony from E.*

Spent two years in Libya. Libya was like hell fire. The situation there is not good. Our life is in danger now. Because the balloon is not ok, because it was leaking and there is so much water inside. Everybody was crying to god. We spent another 13 hours inside the sea. But we were lucky to see a ship. To come and rescue some people inside the water, that’s really helpful. If the ship is not there, maybe I can be a dead man right now. I can say it’s luck, it’s not guaranteed. We were telling no, everybody no, if you know you are going to take us to Libya it’s better for us you don’t rescue us, it’s just better we die. They speak English, they speak French, they speak the other language, these people will understand, they are going to interpret for the people. We all came together. Now this issue is not for the three people, you know, this issue is for everybody. The three people, it’s not that they are the leader, no we all come as one, to make something good for us, for our future, for our life.

Testimony from S.*

Yes, I was in Libya, in misery, in suffering, because I wanted to cross the Mediterranean Sea to go to Europe. I was very happy, happy, because the Europeans were coming to save us, so for me, I was already entering Europe. So, I would rather die in the water than go back to Libya. Because when I was in Libya, I suffered too much. Well, I was in Libya, well, the nine months that I spent in Libya... Often there are gunshots, often at night when we're lying in a big [inaudible] the Arabs would come and take two, three of our friends, and the girls [inaudible] – they raped them. Well, it's not easy. They raped them, and the boys, too, sometimes they abused them. Even when you're with your wife, if someone wants to rape her, when you protest, well, they hurt you. They can shoot you and even beat you to death. I've been through all this.

Testimony from S.*

As soon as they got on the boat, the captain told them they were taking them back to Europe. Now, in the morning around six o'clock, they saw that they are in Libya. As soon as they made sure they were in Libya, they said they didn't want to... to go to Libya because there are tortures, they are sick, everything, everything, everything, everything! Those refused to go to Libya. As soon as they made sure they were in Libya, there are some women, who have a heart attack I think, they fell in the boat and couldn't speak or move. Now they said, we can't go back to Libya because we know that as soon as we go back to Libya, all of us are going to die.

Testimony from F.*

Well, during my stay in Libya, it wasn't easy. I was in prison, I was mistreated and the reason I left my country was to come to Europe. I always kept hope for one day, to be where I am today.
Our boat had a hole in her already and it was sinking a lot. He's a friend and I that were taking the water out, we were helping people to empty the water. The big boat came to us and said he saw the plane, called him, and said he was going to take us to Europe. We didn't even want to come aboard. Everybody said no, that it's the Libyans, that they're the ones are going to send us to Libya and they're going to abuse us again.
...because if we go to Tripoli, if the Arabs catch us, they'll kill us. put in jail, what they're gonna do to us is worse than death. We're ready to die here instead of leaving and being tortured in prison. Most of us have already done the prison, most of us know.
And when we learn that our three brothers are accused of terrorism or hostage-taking, I don't even know… I don't know what to say, on this subject, it makes my heart ache. But there's nothing I can do, I don't know European law.
They are truly innocent, innocent like each one of us.
We have almost no rights here in Europe, and we don't try to have rights here in Europe, only we want to be protected, only, we want to be free like everyone else. That's all we want for our three friends too.

Testimony from K.*

I left home to go back to Libya, it's not easy at all, but with God's help we were able to cross the desert, you see. Libya is not for us. We have no respect in Libya, especially us, the black skins, we are not respected in Libya, you see. With the Libyan crisis too, well, it's not easy at all. I lived through this situation, it was deplorable. Well, that's how I held up. I did two years in Libya. You have no rights here. There are even friends who lost their lives in Libya in front of me, in deplorable conditions. Some of them fell ill, but even in hospital there is no care for them, you see. Some are killed at close range in front of you, you can't do anything. In addition to Libya, they say that currently there is no governance. Well, even if I see that this is not the cause, why do the other skin colours, the Arabs live better there than us black skins? They say slavery doesn't exist, but we think there is still slavery among them in Libya. As life is always made of hope, we must hope that tomorrow will be better. So we were in the little boat, we left Libya. We left there around four, five o'clock. Until two, three, sixteen hours later, there were too many men on the zodiac. Now, at some point, we felt that the zodiac had no strength left, but we hoped that we would reach, still. You see, we were there, sitting on it hoping, you see the water, then you see the zodiac, that one can't save us. It's God with the miracle only. Anyway, I felt, well, not everyone has faith, even not everyone has faith. I had faith that we'll survive after all this. There were children, more than 18 children in the boat. Now, we grown-ups can't... if we lose hope. Now [...] all children have to have hope, always have courage, talk to people, "Calm down". At one point, there were pregnant women I used to say "calm down, we'll be there soon". You have to have the courage to motivate, not despair, you know. At one point, around five o'clock, we saw a Spanish helicopter, with a Spanish flag, which was on top of the helicopter, you know. It comes, it goes by, three, four, five times. In any case, we were sitting calmly, it goes back and forth, now there are people saying "no, he's going to call the people there to come and save us". More than an hour later, we saw something white, and some people even said "it's a boat". In any case, I couldn't see anything, you see, there were four children sitting on my feet. Well, they're crying, I didn't even have the trick to calm them down, you see. But I say "no, even if it's a boat, wait, if it's a boat that's coming to save us, calm down, they'll come sooner or later". Thirty minutes later, we see that there's a boat coming towards us. It's something you don't see like a lifeboat. Now, if we get close to the boat, the wave will knock us over. We try to move away a little, move away a little on the boat, but it's just coming towards us, you know. So there's a captain who's gone down, captain of the ship, big boat. He said, "Calm down, there's good news", so he gave the direction, so the country that's close to us is Malta, so they're going to head for Malta. So everybody started clapping, you know. At around five, five to six o'clock, we see the image of a country, you see, the boat has turned around and left with us for Libya, you see. He swore he'll take us to Europe, it's not Libya, he'll take us. With all this suffering, all the suffering we went through in Libya. What we saw in Libya, there are people who have lived through situations we can't explain, especially girls, you see. "If you want to go back to Libya with us, we'll prepare for our death at the same time", you know. We know that in Libya, they are capable of, even if we don't go down, they are capable of coming to kill us but we prefer that to them saying that we are, that they come to kill everyone on the boat rather than go down on Libyan soil again. That's what we said to the captain, "Otherwise we won't get off, if you want to take us to Libya, we won't get off your boat, you know you promised us, you yourself said we were close to Malta". "But you want to destroy all these hopes in a single minute", these are the words we said to the captain. If you've decided to go back with us to Libya, we're not going down. That's the way it is, at some point he made his decision, he changed his direction in Malta, that's how it was. Now we've been here all day, at night, it's nine o'clock the next day, we're back, we've arrived in Malta. They took six people, seven people to go with them. Now, it was afterwards when we went, when we arrived in Marsa, we washed ourselves, we ate... Now, I couldn't see two or three people, I thought maybe they went to the hospital. We are told that the three people are accused of having taken the boat hostage. What do they have to do to take a boat hostage? We were in it, but why the three people? They were intermediaries for the group in terms of language, you see. So it's because of the languages to translate that they're accused. The three people are to be congratulated purely for the benefits they have done for the group. Some of them have to fight for some of them as well, you know.

Testimony from D.*

Libya wasn't easy at all. By all accounts, I was not at all good there. On was mistreated, we didn't eat well, it wasn't easy. Over there, there have been deaths there, due to illness, tuberculosis. I myself came back with tuberculosis to Malta, here. We have a friend who died with the disease there, really it wasn't easy at all. I was actually feeling good... because I will be entering to Europe. I would leave behind the suffering, all the suffering... I was happy. When we were in Libya, over there in the camp, everybody knew TB was on us. Because we already had a friend who had already died there, had tuberculosis. We ate everything together, we made everything together, we knew the TB was on us. That's why, well, I had in mind... that I was going to die. I don't know why they were in prison. My guess is they didn't do anything badly, they were the ones who translated, today we are in Europe. In fact, they didn't do anything wrong. How... they spoke with the captain about their to say that we if we go back to Libya, we might die like that, it was words like that. They talked to him and he wasn’t obliged to go, he took his decision himself, to go with us [to Malta].

Testimony from W.*

When I was in Libya, really, it was very, very difficult for me, it was not easy. So when I came to Libya, to go outside, to go to the shop or to go to work even that was a problem. A person can hurt you. Well, we were on the water, we were on the water a while around two o'clock, like that. The big boat has only come to save us. We went in, we went into the big boat. Well, they said they're going to bring us to Europe. Frankly, we... we're tired so we didn't want to be taken back to Libya again. Well, we stayed on the water around four in the morning like this, five in the morning, we see a light. There are others who said "Libya" there are others who have says "that's not Libya," you know. People started to panic, a lot of people even started to cry inside. I started crying too. Because we said we didn't want to... be human beings in Libya, yes we'd rather die on the water than go back to Libya, you see. The captain of the big boat saw that people started crying, panicking.. he went down to ask a friend who understands English. Well, when we arrived, the day we arrived, when we got off from the big boat, we see the three people, they were separated from us. They were separated from us, they were handcuffed... we started asking each other "but? What's going on here?" The captain said that we hijacked the ship, but what is it? He's the one who said he's going to bring us here to Malta.

Testimony from T.*

The times we've done is like a prison, we did four months. He died, of illness. That’s the sick person who infected us. That’s the tuberculosis. All of us were eating together, we all came here with the tuberculosis. It wasn't easy there. They hit us too, that was part of it there. They used to scare us with guns. They made us disembark during the night, now we are in the water. done from the morning until four o'clock like this. We saw the plane, we saw the freighter. Well, we were tired, sick, with the captain's words we trusted them. He told us that he will never take us back to Libya, so we were happy at that moment. There are six people who decided that they didn't want to get in the boat. He said those guys are morons. he's gonna take us back to Libya. So, Captain, if you said that, we trust you completely. So I've regretted not being one of those people there even if they're going to die, I prefer it. It's better than going to Libya I'm sick I prefer, if I would have ended up in Libya, this time if I would have died, tuberculosis will kill me. If tuberculosis is going to kill me, it is better to die in the water than to go to Libya. The Libyans will kill you, will torture you, after the tuberculosis will also kill you, so it wasn't easy. Well, I haven't heard from them, they're dead, they're alive, we don't know, but at that moment I felt like I'd really like to stay there. Going with these six people is better than going back to Libya, tortured. Well, we got here, the three there, without them wouldn't have been easy. This are the ones who speak English, French, because there are many people among us who don't even understand French, English, their mother tongue only. We don't understand anything, because it's thanks to the three people here that we've arrived here, because they're the ones who speak French and English. If they have problems, it's not the three people who have the problem, it's everybody's problem. They should be rewarded for saving 105 people, but we reward them with the prison... So we have to do something, we have to be a witness, we need to make sure it's known that they saved us.

Solidarity Is Unity

A Solidarity Song to the El Hiblu passengers The following song was produced by a person who was pushed back to Libya by the cargo ship Nivin in November 2018.
The singer, Young G Kay, faced a situation at sea that was similar to the one faced by the El Hiblu passengers. He was returned to Libya and experienced violence and torture once more in Libyan prisons. Young G Kay succeeded in 2019 to finally escape the Libyan hell. He took another boat and reached Malta, where he now lives. His song Solidarity is Unity is dedicated to those who have struggled against being illegally pushed back to Libya.

Listen: Solidarity song

Lyrics: Solidarity Song
„…All of us, this time we will walk together without anyone saying I'm in a different country or a county in Africa – we're one people. Peace and unity, solidarity, equality! My people, let us live together. Let us unite ourselves to give big thanks to European people, coz they rescue us for love and supporting they're showing us. Please show love and respect to them, think better to make changes for your future. We know we face difficulties, we have been in prisons, we’re suffering, we're so tired, and some of us they died at sea. But now let us give thanks, coz we've arrived in peace. Peace and unity, solidarity, equality! Solidarity for peace and unity. El Hiblu, Nivin let us give thanks to solidarity together, stronger we can win any fights coz the past is all gone, we feel so good to be alive you're just too good to be true, just do your best, try to do your best, peace and love. Peace and unity, solidarity!…“ Young G Kay: Solidarity is Unity