The Malta Independent 18 November 2017, Saturday

Malta again under fire for not taking any boat migrants

Neil Camilleri Monday, 3 July 2017, 14:51 Last update: about 6 months ago

Malta is once again under fire by Italian politicians and sections of the media for not taking any migrants from the tens of thousands rescued at sea.

Forza Italia MP Laura Ravetto is one of several politicians questioning the scenario. Speaking to Libero Quotidiano, Ravetto, who is also president of the Schengen Committee, called on the Italian government to close the ports to NGO ships that rescue migrants from the sea and to change the coast guard’s rules of engagement.

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“While we are talking here, a Spanish ship has landed 1,200 migrants in Salerno. A Spanish ship. Got it? Should Spain not take these migrants, according to Dublin regulations? Why has this ship sailed to Italy?”

Ravetto (below) said the Italian government should close its ports to migrant boats and see that international treaties are respected. Referring to Malta’s search and rescue area, with a size of 250 square km, she said: “Despite being an EU member state Malta refuses to offer help and to allow migrant boats into its harbours. Why is Brussels, which is so attentive to economic matters, closing an eye to this blatant abuse of international pacts?”

She pointed out that, once migrant boats are intercepted, they are supposed to be taken to the nearest safe port. In many rescues, Lampedusa and Salerno are much more distant than Malta and Tunisia.

La Stampa has also revived the argument, pointing out that not a single boat migrant has been taken in by Malta in the past year, despite the fact that Malta is so close to Libya and a base for NGOs that run rescue missions. This, the report says, is a far cry from 2005, when over 4,000 migrants were brought to Malta.

The article published in the online newspaper last week compared Malta to “Switzerland during WWII,” saying that while the country was celebrating its happiest days, a €9 million surplus and an ‘economic miracle’, 80,000 migrants have landed in Italy, another 2,000 drowned in the Mediterranean.

The article also quotes a senior Italian Coast Guard officer, Nicola Carlone, as saying that Malta was refusing to help out. “They limit themselves to monitoring the migrant boats until they have left Maltese waters. There is no other explanation. They do not want the migrants so they do not take them.”

“As seen from Paceville, Malta looks like a giant theme park by the sea, where solidarity has been banned by law,” the journalist concludes.

Another report, this time in Blasting News, describes Malta as “a beautiful island devoid of solidarity.”

“The question of why no one ever thinks of embarking some migrants in Malta, a European Union member, comes to mind,” it says.

It also mentions MOAS, the Malta-based NGO that saves migrants but never lands any in Malta.

The question of why Malta has not taken in any boat migrants for the past three years has been asked time and time again but no real answer has ever been provided. It has long been speculated that the Maltese government had struck some kind of deal with Italy whereby the latter would take in all the migrants rescued at sea. This theory was reinforced by cases of migrants that were saved near Malta but were taken to Sicily instead. It is believed that the secret deal involved the trading of oil exploration rights.

Back in 2015, Carmelo Abela, who was then Home Affairs Minister, had confirmed that there was an “informal collaboration" between Malta and Italy whereby all migrants saved in the central Mediterranean would be disembarked in Italy.

The announcement, made during a press conference, had come as a shock because the government had never discussed the subject before. That year, only around a hundred migrants had landed in Malta by boat.

However, the ministry had later that same day backtracked and insisted that no such agreement existed.

Since then, several Italian MPs and MEPs have demanded explanations on why all migrants saved on the Libya routes were being taken by Italy alone.

 

 

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