The Malta Independent 20 February 2019, Wednesday

Migrants so desperate that they are crossing the Med in rough winter seas - MOAS

Tuesday, 17 February 2015, 10:39 Last update: about 5 years ago

The director of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station Martin Xuereb said Libya’s escalating situation is leading to people becoming so desperate to escape that they do so without even considering weather conditions beforehand.

He also said that migration by boat taking place in summer only is a thing of the past as people are leaving, whatever the season.

 “Most have reached a point where they cannot stay in the country any longer and are taking the plunge and crossing in rough seas. Irrelevant whether its summer or winter, they feel the need to leave the country and do so without taking into consideration the implications of bad weather,” he said.

MOAS is a humanitarian, non-profit project aimed at assisting migrant vessels in distress in the central Mediterranean.

Mare Nostrum implications

Asked by this newsroom whether Operation Mare Nostrum – which was halted last year – had helped reduce the influx of migrants to Malta, Mr Xuereb said that there is no doubt Malta witnessed less arrivals last year as a result of its operations.

Operation Mare Nostrum was established by the Italian government on 18 October, 2013 to tackle the dramatic increase of migratory flows and consequent tragic ship wreckages off the island of Lampedusa.

The naval and air units deployed to Mare Nostrum was necessary to improve maritime security, patrol sea lanes, combat human trafficking, and tackling the Mediterranean humanitarian emergency in the Sicily Straits.

He said the asset complement averaged five Italian Navy ships and numerous air units at any given time. But late last year, the Italian Cabinet pulled the plug on the mission, which had saved tens of thousands lives.

Search and rescue issue should be placed at top of agenda

Brigadier Xuereb, a former head of the Armed Forces - emphasised that all those involved should work together to address the root causes while placing the issue of search and rescue at the top of the agenda is a must, be it on a national, EU or global level. “The issue of migration will not go away,” he said.

Malta must be prepared for every eventuality - FZD

Opposition spokesman for migration Francis Zammit Dimech told this newsroom that the government must be prepared in the eventuality that Malta experiences an influx of migrants as a result of the Libya situation.

The situation, which is of great concern, can worsen when the weather starts to improve, he said.

Dr Zammit Dimech emphasised that the government has to be prepared on a humanitarian level and must act in a more credible manner within the international fora, particularly at European level. He added that Malta’s interests should be safeguarded at all times.

Dr Zammit Dimech also made reference to the suggestion made by PN MEP Roberta Metsola who asked the EU to place naval forces in the Mediterranean to assist in the situation, especially in the light of the fact that Mare Nostrum is no longer operating.

 

 

 

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