The Malta Independent 18 May 2022, Wednesday

Gaddafi Suspected to be behind spate of illegal immigrants

Malta Independent Sunday, 27 August 2006, 00:00 Last update: about 9 years ago

The news of the past few hours is as dramatic as it could be: no less than 314 illegal immigrants have arrived in Lampedusa in the past 24 hours, plus a further 100 the previous day.

Three babies did not make it: UNHCR’s Laura Boldrini mentioned two couples with two children each who sailed from Libya. The boat, guided by inexpert hands, lost its way and three children died before the boat found its way back to Libya. The parents took another boat with their only surviving son and made it to Lampedusa.

Here in Malta, 19 illegal immigrants (18 males, one female) were rescued by the AFM after being spotted by a Croatian ship on a seven-metre boat on Friday, and early yesterday, 35 illegal immigrants (28 males, seven females and the body of a dead woman) were brought to Malta.

Had they died in a terror attack, commented The Economist, they would be on every front page. Last week alone, 79 people lost their lives in the southern Mediterranean. They were immigrants who drowned trying to reach Europe on boats that were not sea-worthy. But their deaths did not make news outside Italy.

According to the magazine, “there are increased suspicions that Colonel Gaddafi is behind this increase of illegal immigration from Libya. This would not be the first time that an African leader uses illegal immigration to put pressure on the rich Europeans”.

The effects of media reports of deaths by drowning and of illegal immigrants jam-packed on small boats, puts the governments of Europe under pressure, even though, in the case of Italy, only four per cent of illegal immigrants arrive by sea.

The much-vaunted meeting to be held in Malta between Libya, Italy and Malta is thus already stillborn. This might be the message given by the Libyan Ambassador in Malta, Saad El Shlmani, in an interview he gave to The Times yesterday.

The ambassador told Herman Grech that Libya will not accept sea patrols nor joint missions to turn the immigrants’ boats back. The only subject Libya seems ready to discuss is how Europe could help, financially, the oil-rich country.

This seems to tie in perfectly with what The Economist said. It listed all the failed attempts by the Berlusconi government to reach an agreement with Libya, which came to nothing following Libyan requests for the payment of damages suffered when it was an Italian colony.

At least two Italian ministers have publicly accused Libya of favouring the influx of illegal immigrants. Justice minister and former prime minister Giuliano Amato had accused the Gaddafi regime of flooding Italy with immigrants to exert pressure on the Italian government to cough up the €6,000 million necessary to build the Tripoli to Benghazi 2,000 km long motorway, as promised by Berlusconi. Mr Amato later withdrew part of his claim.

Italian minister Antonio di Pietro also claimed the influx of illegal immigrants come with the tacit assent of the Libyan authorities and that, while Libya claims damages for its colonisation, the Italians expelled from Libya have never received any compensation.

But blaming Libya for what is happening hardly touches the essence of the problem.

As Alessandro del Lago, from the University of Genova and Fulvio Vassallo, from the University of Palermo, wrote in Il Manifesto last Tuesday, when Mr Amato recently blamed international criminal organisations as being behind the flood of illegal immigrants, did he really believe that these international criminals were forcing Eritreans, Somalis, Kurds and others to flee to Europe, or was it because of the wars, famine and sheer will to survive? And instead of financing the ‘astute’ Gaddafi or the mercy organisations, which get richer through managing the centres for illegal immigrants, would not that money be better spent in providing better shelters for these foreigners?

On the other hand, in Italy as in Malta, there are always those who, like former minister Calderoni, suggest shooting at the illegal immigrants’ boats and who incite massive xenophobia. Actually, within the context of the Italian situation, it is what is known as the Bossi-Fini law, which set up and made harsher the regimes of Cpt (Centri di permanenza temporanea), which not only do not solve anything but make everything so much more difficult and sad for people who risked death in their search for a better life.

Australia’s response to militant Muslims

Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told to get out of Australia on Wednesday, as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terror attacks.

A day after a group of mainstream Muslim leaders pledged loyalty to Australia at a special meeting with Prime Minister John Howard, he and his ministers made it clear that extremists would face a crack down.

Treasurer Peter Costello, seen as heir apparent to Howard, hinted that some radical clerics could be asked to leave the country if they did not accept that Australia was a secular State and its laws were made by Parliament.

“If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic State, then Australia is not for you,” he said on national television.

“I’d be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia, one the Australian law and another the Islamic law, that is false. If you can’t agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country, which practices it, perhaps, then, that’s a better option,” Costello said.

Asked whether he meant radical clerics would be forced to leave, he said those with dual citizenship could possibly be asked to move to another country.

Education Minister Brendan Nelson later told reporters that Muslims who did not want to accept local values should “clear off”.

Separately, Howard angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying he supported spy agency’s monitoring the nation’s mosques.

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