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20 April 2014

Muscat warns EU that Malta expects solidarity on immigration

 - Friday, 05 July 2013, 00:00 , by John Cordina
Update 5

The rescue of nearly 300 people who had left Libya for Europe has prompted Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to insist that Malta expects EU solidarity on immigration – and that it is ready to take all the necessary steps to be heard.

Dr Muscat held a hastily-announced news conference concerning the arrival of 291 people – 243 men and 48 women – from Libya on the night between Wednesday and Thursday, and on the occasion, he stressed that the situation could not be described as “business as usual.” The circumstances were exceptional, he said, and action was required.

The Prime Minister consistently referred to the rescued group as “illegal immigrants” – a term that had fallen out of favour in recent years, and which, in the case of those who seek asylum, is also technically incorrect – while Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia, who also addressed the media, used the more neutral term “irregular immigrants” instead.

Dr Muscat announced that he had called European Council president Herman van Rompuy to give him a formal notice that Malta “will be using all legitimate means at the European Council” to express its lack of satisfaction at the present arrangements, and to demand further solidarity.

He said that Malta did its duty in rescuing the people, stating at one point that national policy was to be compassionate with the weak but strong with politicians. But he also added that Malta would not leave its doors open wide and “welcome boats from Libya and elsewhere as if nothing happened.”

“Call us harsh, call us heartless, but we are not pushovers (passatur),” Dr Muscat insisted.

The prime minister dismissed suggestions that he was being alarmist about the situation, stating that he was giving a realistic account of the situation.

Mr van Rompuy has already been scheduled to visit Malta next week, and Dr Muscat confirmed that immigration will be a key topic in the discussions that will take place. He said that Mr van Rompuy appeared to be understanding of the government’s concerns, noting how he said that the arrival of 300 people was a lot for many member states when told that it was a lot for Malta.

He also insisted that in his discussions with the Council president, he was not begging for assistance, but fighting for the country’s rights, adding that although the Maltese were compassionate, they were no pushovers.

‘We’ll go as far as we need to’

The prime minister revealed that Malta had abstained from voting on the asylum package at last week’s European Council, which his party had criticised because it included no compulsory burden-sharing mechanism for asylum seekers.

Asked what steps he was considering to take to assert the government’s position, Dr Muscat said that “we’ll go as far as we need to.”

He said that he expected the EU to address the issue as it had addressed the rescue of ailing banks, stating that immigration was a European crisis and that the burden should not fall on the EU’s smallest member. He also said that Malta expected to be shown the same solidarity it had shown to countries which have received bailouts in recent years.

Dr Muscat’s rhetoric did not go down well with the Nationalist Party, which said that his statement smacked of populism.

“It is a cheap attempt to gain popularity and to appear decisive in blatant disregard of the suffering of those who arrived overnight.”

It also questioned Dr Muscat’s apparent attempt to strong-arm the EU into accepting Malta’s request for solidarity.

“If the Prime Minister thinks he will win support at European level by using threats, he has another thing coming. This approach goes against the basic premises on which the EU is built and will isolate Malta from the other EU member states,” the PN said.

This prompted a reply by the Labour Party, which insisted that the government is committed to obtain what is best for the country and to make its voice heard through legitimate means for Malta to get the assistance it needs.

It accused the PN of wanting to put spokes in the wheels in this regard.

Push-backs not ruled out

In reply to another question by the media, the prime minister said that he was not excluding push-backs of immigrants intercepted at sea, “especially” if Libya is declared to be a safe country.

The practice had been utilised by Italy, which promptly earned the condemnation of the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that such push-backs violated human rights if people are returned to countries where they may face persecution or serious harm.

The mention of push-backs appears to have raised the concerns of the Malta office of the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, which quickly issued a statement to stress that push-backs were not an option.

“The situation of asylum seekers in Libya remains an issue of grave concern. Recent reports describe a context of lawlessness and impunity, where foreign nationals from sub-Saharan Africa are at constant risk of exploitation, arrest and indefinite detention,” UNHCR Malta insisted.

“In this situation it is evident that forced return or push-back of asylum seekers to Libya is not an option, as this would constitute a breach of international law,” the Malta representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Jon Hoisaeter, said.

UNHCR Malta also pointed out that so far, the number of arrivals is lower than it was last year, and that it believed that a combination of solutions – including local integration, resettlement/relocation and the return of those not in need of international protection – will continue to be required. It pledged to support the government and other partners to address and manage the situation in a comprehensive manner.

Last month, Mr Hoisaeter had also stressed that Malta’s argument that it was too small would likely not go very far on its own: a clear definition of Malta’s own capacity and planned contribution for the coming years was also required.

Two shot while fleeing detention in Libya

In his own comments, Dr Mallia provided details on the rescue and the immigrants’ arrival, noting how seven – four men and three women – had to be taken to Mater Dei Hospital. Two of them had been shot in Libya – apparently in the process of escaping from detention – while the rest suffered various physical problems related to their journey.

The boat was first spotted to Malta’s southwest at around 2pm, and the Maltese authorities were informed of its arrival by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Rome.

The injured were evacuated by helicopter, and the rest were rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta. Their boat’s motor had stopped running, and it was taking water when its occupants were evacuated: Dr Muscat pointed out that the boat sank shortly afterwards.

The vast majority of the group appear to be Eritrean, based on the accounts of those who have already been screened, Dr Mallia said.

But Dr Muscat later noted that at this point, there were conflicting stories about who the people were, as well as where they had been detained, why and by whom. Information received by the authorities suggested that they had been held by some armed faction within Libya, although other stories suggest that they had simply been detained for crossing into Libya.

As a result, he said, it was not yet clear whether the group would end up in detention centres – as is standard under Malta’s controversial policy which allows for the detention of asylum seekers for up to 12 months – or elsewhere.

34 comments

Post Comment
ARLEEN+JOSE BARLOW says:
05 July 2013 13:59

Local Integration!!!!!!! Tell that to the English.

Post Reply

Pat Muscat says:
05 July 2013 09:45

This is all the result of the naive agreement on Dublin, 2 by EFA and the ' burden' sharing dumped on us by Simon Busuttil: Amateur statesmen!

Post Reply

Antoine Vella says:
04 July 2013 21:15

n case Joseph Muscat has forgotten, this is Malta 2013 not Alabama 1913.

His populist whining and growling may go down well with the more extreme xenophobic elements in Malta but the sane - the moderate and progressive - part of the Maltese population find his tone unacceptable.

So I, for one, want to state this very clearly: JOSEPH MUSCAT IS NOT SPEAKING IN MY NAME.

Post Reply

Vincent Williams says:
04 July 2013 21:37

@ J. Gaffarena

That is one of the most problem that the country has with the PN's policies.  That for the PN ILLEGAL immigration is not to be condemned.  But other ILLEGAL activities are condemned by the PN.  Where is the PN's policies consistency?  On the moon?

Post Reply

Vincent Williams says:
04 July 2013 21:44

@ A. Vella

You are correct when you stated that the PM is not speaking in your name as you are support the policy of the PN which was crashed in the last election by 36,000 votes.  If you are happy stay that way.

I am part of the vast majority and I am against the ILLEGAL immigration.  You are part of a political party which was always and still is a foreign licker.  If the PN will not change its policy which is in favour of the ILLEGAL immigration.  Without any doubt the PN will win the 6 seats in the coming EU Parliamentary election next year. 

WITHOUT ANY DOUBT THE ONLY CHANGE THAT SIMON BUSUTTIL DID TO THE PN WAS A COSMETIC CHANGE.

Post Reply

Eddy Priviteera says:
04 July 2013 22:01

Antoine Dr. MUscat is speaking on behalf OF THE GREAT MAJORITY of the Maltese people . I would say that on this matter, 90 PER CENT !

Post Reply

Joseph Gaffarena says:
04 July 2013 20:09

Simon Busutill as far as I, know is not against illegal immigrants.I, heard him saying this many times.

Post Reply

Shaun Anthony Camilleri says:
04 July 2013 14:35

Finally some sense. We must stand up for ourselves as otherwise they will continue to mistreat us and these illegal immigrants take the little we have. Malta was never a plave for immigrants but for migrants. More of us live outside Mala than here.

Post Reply

godwin scerri says:
04 July 2013 14:09

Il problemi li ghamel GONZIPN bliffirmar tat tratat qedin imbatuh issa. Jekk SIMONPN hu tant herqan ghal dawn limigranti il legali johodom u izzomom tal Pieta.

Post Reply

Brian Ellul says:
04 July 2013 14:06

Finally! we have a cowboy!

Post Reply

Joseph Stafrace says:
04 July 2013 19:22

No we have a PM with balls at last.

Post Reply

J. Busuttil says:
04 July 2013 20:29

You can be a PM with balls and no brains.

Post Reply

Vincent Williams says:
04 July 2013 21:55

@ J. Busuttil

Are you referring to every PN Prime Minister who had BALLS to create a record of €4.9 billion million of National Debt.  But had no BRAINS at all to decrease such debt even by one cent?

Post Reply

Eddy Priviteera says:
04 July 2013 22:02

J. Busuttil. Or no balls and no brains, like your namesake !

Post Reply

Jimmy Better says:
04 July 2013 13:35

Muscat will get better results by hassling his new best mates in Libya to stop sending them in the first place. Even if we leave the EU, they will still come here. What would we do then - sink them?

Post Reply

GL Sammut says:
04 July 2013 18:18

"What would we do then - sink them? Mr Better maybe that is something that you would do since you are the one that brought it up. Please think before you write. FYI the EU is refusing to abide by the Sharing agreement they signed because all the other EU States don't want these Illegal Immigrants either. I think the EU and the UNHCR should be the ones doing the push backs.

Post Reply

Vincent Williams says:
04 July 2013 21:50

@ B. Ellul

Under GonziPN we had a PM who supposed to have had 'par idejn sodi'.  But the than PM was strong with the wick and wick with the strong...and that is a cowboy!  The PN is so wick even under Simon Busuttil.  That it is not capable of defending its own voters from ILLEGAL immigration!!!

Post Reply

JJ Micallef says:
04 July 2013 13:28

What an amoral opportunist being!

This person who sought political mileage with every rescued boat of migrants under the previous administration is now "expecting solidarity" from the EU which he deceitfully and assiduously campaigned against.

Post Reply

Eddy Priviteera says:
04 July 2013 17:55

JJ Micallef: So your opinion is that the EU should not shoulder the burden with Malta ! Are you Maltese ?????????????????

Post Reply

Ramon Garcia says:
04 July 2013 21:18

Sounds like 1970`s talk yet again Eddy. Viva Malta imma il-barrani il-babaw! We`re Europeans Eddy even though your party and leaders all opposed it....cpme back to reality .

Post Reply

Vincent Williams says:
04 July 2013 22:01

@ R. Garcia

The PN under Simon Busuttil is acting like the PN under Gorg Borg Olivier...foreign licker!!!!  The Dynasty PN is back to the 1960's!!!  Surely the late Margaret Thacher obtained from the EU what Simon Busuttil could not do even in a thousand years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Post Reply

JJ Micallef says:
05 July 2013 08:13

You are a moron as your abysmal knowledge of EU political history!

Post Reply

Vincent Williams says:
05 July 2013 12:02

@ JJ Micallef

Regarding the EU political history that you mentioned.  If you are indicating that it is not true that the late British PM M. Thatcher did not stood up to the EU and obtained what she fought for.  Than you are totally twisting the real facts.  Like the PN is doing in defending the ILLEGAL immigration instead of defending its own voters and the rest of the Maltese people.

Post Reply

JJ Micallef says:
05 July 2013 15:25

I really don't know why I'm doing this as I hate wasting time with parrots of your kind. I'm just copying what I wrote under a separate thread rebutting the Prime Minister who is probably only a little more informed than you on Thatcher's veto behaviour. Enjoy and learn.

If there ever was any doubt that Muscat has not an iota of understanding of the EU's raison d’etre is the following stupidity uttered in parliament tonight.

“The Prime Minister said that Britain is still benefitting from a rebate related to the EU’s common agricultural policy thanks to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s use of the veto”

In the hope that he spares Malta further embarrassment let me inform the emperor that Margaret Thatcher was not pushing her VETO weight around to obtain a rebate but rather for radical changes of the common agricultural policy and other budget issues. Not to prolong the matter further she was offered a quick settlement (the rebate) which she accepted.

Her trade secretary had noted that this was a huge mistake and  rather than obtaining the changes desired, Thatcher was short changed on her original objective with pittance. Not only but this event irreversibly tarnished Thatcher’s credentials on EU matters – and ultimately the support of her own party members.

Post Reply

Eddy Priviteera says:
04 July 2013 22:05

Ramon: We have been Europeans since time immemorial. But we are MALTESE FIRST AND FOREMOST !

Post Reply

JJ Micallef says:
05 July 2013 08:10

Eddypedia this is precious!!!

So you and your masters spend innumerable years vomiting industrial volumes of bile and lies on the EU and then because of your xenophobic nature, expect help at gunpoint from this same organisation that you have and still vilify.

You really are a shameless moron.

About requesting help, we certainly should. The difference is that you and your masters adopt the attitude of insignificant bullies, whilst I prefer the route of incessant diplomacy.

This comes to no surprise as your previous masters have always done the same in all political scenarios, from international relations to dealing with doctors and schools on a local basis.

Take Mintoff, he hijacked a Helsinki conference to finally obtain a highly insignificant paragraph. What was not insignificant about that paragraph is that we were no longer trusted by rule-of-law-abiding countries - the only "friends" we could aspire to where tyrants like Gaddafi, Ceausescu and Kim il-Sung.


Post Reply

Eddy Priviteera says:
05 July 2013 10:30

JJ Micallef: You suffer from political amnesia. You mentioned the Helsinki episode when Mintoff forced the big powers and the rest of Europe to accept his amendment. But failed to mention also when Mintoff, according to you, "bullied" the British government and Nato and succeeded in getting LM 14 million a year (€32.5 million) for 7 years to make Malta truly a sovereign country in 1979 ! €32.5 million a year in 1972 would be comparable to probably €140 million today !!! Much Much more than we are getting from the EU. And we do not have to pay back even 1 cent to Britain. While today EU memebrship is costing Malta more money than we are receiving !!!!!!!!!

Post Reply

JJ Micallef says:
05 July 2013 10:57

Oh sure Eddypedia!

I love your rendition of the British story who eventually told Mintoff to eff off, meaning that he had to prostitute Malta with that criminal Gaddaffi to be able to pay civil service wages - you know that big friend of Malta who sent his gunboats when we went drilling for oil.

No wonder your own leaders called you "mazzun" and "makku".

That what you get reading too much wikipedia!


Post Reply

Eddy Priviteera says:
05 July 2013 15:11

JJ MicALLEF: YOU CERTAINLY PUT YOUR FOOT IN IT, ALL RIGHT !

WHEN GADDAFI SENT HIS GUNBOATS, MINTOFF WAS NOT AFRAID TO SEND GADDAFI PACKING IN NO UNCERTAIN WAYS ! AND WHAT DID THE PN OPPOSITION THEN ? WHAT IT HAS DONE TODAY - THEY SIDED WITH GADDAFI AGAINST MINTOFF, AS IF MINTOFF WAS NOT MALTA'S PRIMEMINISTER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

LA STORIA SI RIPETE, CARO !!! PN CANNOT BE TRUSTED TO DEFEND MALTA'S INTEREST !

Post Reply

JJ Micallef says:
05 July 2013 17:00

Eddypedia you're not only a shameless fabricator of lies at industrial volumes but you are also RUDE!

Post Reply

JJ Micallef says:
05 July 2013 12:28

Oh sure Eddypedia!

I love your rendition of the British story who eventually told Mintoff to eff off, meaning that he had to prostitute Malta with that criminal Gaddaffi to be able to pay civil service wages - you know that big friend of Malta who sent his gunboats when we went drilling for oil.

No wonder your own leaders called you "mazzun" and "makku".

That what you get reading too much wikipedia!


Post Reply

Louise Vella says:
04 July 2013 11:48

Or else what? Malta should tell the EU that it is ready to declare that it is no longer bound by the so-called international obligations. I'm sure the Jesuit Refugee Service will support such a declaration by the Maltese government.


Post Reply

Eddy Priviteera says:
04 July 2013 11:26

What will Simon Busuttil say now ? He had been quite happy with the "voluntary" burden-sharing agreement. And had criticised harshly Dr. Muscat for having warned GonziPN NOT TO SIGN that agreement unless it became mandatory for EU states to share with us the burden !

Post Reply

GL Sammut says:
04 July 2013 19:05

Eddie this time I fully agree with you. The only burden sharing was done by the United States and very little by the other EU States. Remember the famous promise by Gaddafi? Europe will be taken over by Muslims. Lo and behold Coronel Gaddafi is keeping his word.

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