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Malta, Libya Agree on Mutual Cooperation to Intercept Migrants - Reports

© REUTERS / Darrin Zammit LupiRescued migrants on the deck of an Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) patrol boat reach out for bottles of water being distributed by a soldier in a biohazard suit after arriving at the AFM's Maritime Squadron base at Haywharf in Valletta's Marsamxett Harbour, January 22, 2015
Rescued migrants on the deck of an Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) patrol boat reach out for bottles of water being distributed by a soldier in a biohazard suit after arriving at the AFM's Maritime Squadron base at Haywharf in Valletta's Marsamxett Harbour, January 22, 2015 - Sputnik International
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MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Malta and Libya have concluded a secret agreement, according to which the authorities of two countries can intercept migrants heading to Malta and return them to the North African country, media reported on Sunday.

According to the Times of Malta, the deal "on mutual cooperation" was signed by representatives of the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) and the Libyan coast guard.

A senior government source told the media outlet that negotiations between the parties began about a year ago.

"We reached what you could call an understanding with the Libyans. When there is a vessel heading towards our waters, the AFM coordinates with the Libyans who pick them up and take them back to Libya before they come into our waters and become our responsibility," the source said, as quoted by the newspaper.
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The Times of Malta added that the Libyan coast guard has previously been charged with human rights violations, including torture and obstruction of rescue operations. However, the government source defended the agreement between the countries, saying that similar deals had previously been reached between Libya and Italy.

Libya serves as a transit point for thousands of migrants who attempt to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea. The journey is extremely perilous and often resulting in deaths of those who try to cross the sea. A number of international charities have been organizing sea rescue missions in the region. However, EU countries, for instance, Italy and Malta, have been reluctant to let the rescued migrants disembark.

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