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Fears over safety of defecting military pilots’ families in Libya

The two Libyan single-seat Mirage fighters have been moved from Malta International Airport to facilitate operations. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The two Libyan single-seat Mirage fighters have been moved from Malta International Airport to facilitate operations. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The Refugees Commissioner is concerned that a petition requesting that two Libyan pilots who defected to Malta be granted asylum could jeopardise the safety of their families back home.

“The people sending these letters (petitions) are not considering the harm that can be done to their (the pilots’) families in Libya,” Commissioner Mario Friggieri said.

The pilots defected to Malta in their jet fighters instead of allegedly following orders to bomb civilians on February 21. Both airmen are seeking political asylum and their request is now before the Refugees Commissioner.

Almost 35,000 people signed a petition calling on the Refugees Commissioner to grant the two defectors asylum. The petition, on www.change.org, set up by a grassroots Libyan group called Enough, reads: “Refugees Commissioner Mario Guido Friggieri has not yet made clear whether the pilots will be granted asylum. If the pilots are sent back to Libya, they will likely be executed.”

The granting of asylum would “save their lives and encourage more pilots and ship captains to refuse to attack civilians”, the activists argue. When contacted, Mr Friggieri said: “I can’t even comment about whether the pilots have applied for asylum or not.

It’s very, very confidential... I think it’s very important (that I do not comment) both for their own good and, especially, for the good of their families back in Libya.”

The two single-seat Mirages have been disarmed by French civilian engineers after specialists from the Royal Air Force deactivated the weaponry.

The aircraft were yesterday moved from Malta International Airport to facilitate operations.

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