The “ElHiblu 3” were among 108 people rescued by the merchant vessel ElHiblu 1 in March 2019. When facing the prospect of being illegally returned to Libya, the group of migrants protested and convinced the crew to steer north instead. Upon arrival in Malta, three of the rescued were imprisoned. 2022 they still continue to stand trial before a Maltese court.

The Free ElHiblu3 campaign was launched by various members of sea rescue organizations to highlight the injustice of the trial against the three. On board the merchant vessel, they acted merely as translators between the crew and the rescued. They contributed to stop an illegal pushback by proxy. Nonetheless, they continue to face severe terrorism charges in Malta.

The main goal of the campaign is the withdrawal of preliminary charges against the three and the dismissal of the trial. The ElHiblu3’s lives have been on hold. They have already been imprisoned in Malta for seven months and they fear to be imprisoned again. This prospect is numbing them and comes with a constant struggle to structure their lives. It is about time that they can live in freedom.

In March 2021, on the second anniversary of the ElHiblu3’s arrival, the campaign could draw international attention to the trial and many groups and networks joined the call to dismiss all charges immediately: Religious leaders, humanitarians, lawyers, and scholars spoke out against this unjust trial.

In October 2021 the ElHiblu3 Freedom Commission went public with a first statement. It is a newly formed and independent alliance of human rights advocates demanding freedom of the ElHiblu3. Several commission members contributed with articles and texts to a solidarity brochure of the campaign. Finally they came together in March 2022 for the „Freedom Conference“ in Valetta, when about 100 local and transnational supporters and activists met for a two-days gathering to reframe and to scandalize the ongoing injustice against the three youngsters in the wider picture of criminalization and determent of refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean area.



Echoes#1 – July 2022