The Malta Independent 29 February 2020, Saturday

Updated: Prime Minister Joseph Muscat hopes European Union will take action on migration

Thursday, 5 March 2015, 16:55 Last update: about 6 years ago

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said that he hopes words spoken by EU members about migration will turn into action.

He was speaking during the "MIGRATIONS" conference at UNESCO House, Paris. "The fact that they are not coming to Malta does not mean that people aren't crossing the Mediterranean".

"They are not coming to Malta as we are working effectively and collaboratively with the Italians. In truth, the only country seriously trying to save lives is Italy".

Operation Triton, when compared to Mare Nostrum, is practically nothing, he argued. He hopes that now, since others have said that they will increase their efforts, words will turn into action.

"Yesterday EC Vice President Frans Timmermans said that we should no longer speak about Mare Nostrum, as Europa Nostrum must begin. One hopes this statement turns into fact. Until now, what the EU has said has not turned to fact, in truth, the situation was tackled by Italy with a small but significant amount of help from Malta. We are using all our military assets to save lives. In the past years nearly 14,000 lives were saved by the Maltese Armed Forces and I must thank them. I believe that sometimes we do not give them enough importance".

In his address during the conference, Dr Muscat said that while in the past Europe might have been subject to economic migration from people leaving behind dire economic situations to try a new start in a more economically viable country, migrants reaching our shores nowadays are increasingly escaping those wars, persecution and violence.

Raging wars are not only tearing at the social fabric of the affected countries but are also leading to strains on the societies receiving these migrants. Without peace there can be no stability and without stability there can be no prosperity. These are truisms which we have all heard before and which we will keep reiterating. Political reconciliation is the best tool to address the phenomenon of migration.

Everyone should have the opportunity to have a future in their country of origin. Everyone has the inalienable right to security, prosperity and a peaceful life. The same liberties and freedoms which are an everyday occurrence for us must also become a reality for the people of Libya, Iraq, Syria and other parts of the world plagued by ongoing conflict.

Turning to Libya, Dr Muscat said that it is indeed a well known and documented fact that there are huge numbers of migrants in the country and that the in-flows of these migrants continue unabated. Boatloads of migrants have been leaving the Libyan coast for years now and there is seemingly no end in sight. Indeed if the indications of the first two months of this year are anything to go by, these boat migrations are likely to continue unfettered. Not only that, but the people smugglers and traffickers are becoming even more daring and callous, forcing migrants to board overloaded boats at gunpoint and providing insufficient fuel for the journey; tragically sometimes, a journey to death.

Clearly in a situation where the rule of law is absent and as the political situation in Libya continues to deteriorate with open conflict, criminal organizations involved in the smuggling of migrants will meet less and less obstacles to entice migrants already in the country to take a sea journey that could lead them to their deaths. Thousands of people have already lost their lives trying to make their way to Europe. They are buried in the cemetery which has become the Mediterranean.

Besides the movements of the migrants in Libya, it is also worth recalling that we are now facing a situation whereby it is the Libyan people themselves who have started looking at the possibility of attempting the boat crossing to Europe. The numbers are less than encouraging. With close to 400,000 Libyans now classified as Internally Displaced Persons, there is not much room for being positive on this aspect.

At the rate with which developments are unfolding in Libya, the global community needs to reflect upon and draft a clear course of action to address this evolving scenario. Accepting the status quo is not an option, neither in the short term nor in the long term. We cannot accept to have a failed state on our doorsteps, and yes, it is our doorstep. And we cannot accept to become immune to the migrations from Libya.

Primarily, Malta continues to insist that all sides must realize that the political talks between the various factions in Libya are probably the last opportunity to save the country. All actors, whether internal or external, have to bear the responsibility of the success or failure of the political dialogue. It is a long and difficult process but one for which there is no other option. If we truly want to see peace in Libya, we have to encourage a dialogue without any preconditions, a dialogue where humanity is imperative and where the rights of others are as important as the rights of the self.

Conscious of this, Malta has been steadfast in its unwavering support of the political process in Libya. We are, and will remain, unstinting in our efforts to see that our neighbor in the South, Europes neighbor, is at peace. For this reason, we also stand fully behind the untiring efforts being made by the United Nations. Malta will remain the voice of common sense in the Mediterranean.

We believe it is important for this pressure to be maintained and we continue to call on all parties to cease the violence, which is crippling the security, social and economic fabric of the country. The people of Libya are tired of the situation and want their representatives to put an end to their growing insecurity and recklessness. We are convinced that matters can only durably change through a political process that culminates in a national unity government. A military solution will not go far in addressing the causes of the conflict and in eliminating them. We remain ready to support any call by an emerging unity government that will ask for assistance from the United Nations in the manner they most deem fit. This should remain a Libyan led process, by Libyans for Libyans, if it is to succeed.

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