The Malta Independent 20 January 2019, Sunday

Stranded NGO vessels not allowed into Malta so not to set a precedent – Prime Minister

Albert Galea Sunday, 6 January 2019, 10:32 Last update: about 14 days ago

The vessels belonging to the NGOs Sea-Watch and Sea-Eye, which have a total of 49 migrants onboard, have not been granted entry into Maltese ports so as not to set a precedent for future cases, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on One Radio on Sunday morning.

The Prime Minister said that how the situation was handled was “a matter of principle” so not to set a precedent and turn Malta into a centre where boats carrying rescued migrants from any part of the Mediterranean could go.

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He said that he would not go into the issue of whether the NGOs in question followed the directions of the responsible authorities, saying only that they had both been granted permission to sail closer to Malta so to take shelter from bad weather.

Speaking more in general terms, Muscat took aim at countries which were trying to be “bullies” about the migratory situation – a clear jibe at Italy - and at those who were cheering these said bullies on, saying that Malta was looking like the weak country for following the rules and rescuing migrants who were within their zone of responsibility.

Muscat said that Malta’s position when it came to dealing with migration was “very simple” and was based on namely two principles which go hand-in-hand: firstly that human life is safeguarded and secondly that there are no compromises on national security.

In fact, the Prime Minister noted, the Armed Forces of Malta had rescued 249 migrants without “complaining or dragging their feet” as these migrants were “literally sinking” and were in waters that Malta was responsible for. 

He said that discussions were ongoing and called for a solution that will not only redistribute the migrants currently stranded offshore, but one which will also apply to all future cases.  He also questioned whether Malta would be getting any help from other countries in dealing with the 249 migrants that they had just rescued.

Muscat also dedicated part of his air-time to discussing the government’s thirst for change as opposed to continuity, saying that the results gained since Labour took government were due to “continuous change”. 

He mentioned various sectors such as the economy, education, infrastructure, health, political activism, security, the environment and social matters such as pensions as examples to show that there had been success and that it had been powered by this element of continuous change, noting that it was only through changes such as the bringing in of the Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence industries that the government could financially support reforms in the various aforementioned sectors.

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