The Malta Independent 19 September 2019, Thursday

Mistake for Italy to bully Malta instead of co-operating with it – Farrugia

Tuesday, 3 July 2018, 08:54 Last update: about 2 years ago

It would be a mistake for Italy to try and bully Malta instead of cooperating with it when it comes to immigration, Minister for Home Affairs and National Security Michael Farrugia told the Malta Independent yesterday.

On Saturday Farrugia was once again involved in an argument on Twitter with Italy’s controversial Minister for Home Affairs Matteo Salvini, this time relating to the NGO vessel Open Arms which was carrying 50 migrants and was rejected entry into both Maltese and Italian ports. 

In this case, Salvini said that the boat was Malta’s responsibility as it was the closest port; a statement which Farrugia exposed as being untrue, by publishing a map showing that Lampedusa was in fact the closest port of call for the ship.  Latest marine tracking updates show that the Open Arms has since diverted its course towards the port of Barcelona, in Spain.

Asked by this newsroom about Salvini’s tactics in publicly putting pressure on Malta and practically bullying the country and how this affects the current immigration scenario, Farrugia said that the continuation of this tactic by Italy would be a mistake, and that cooperation between the countries would be more beneficial to both. 

Malta and Italy are facing the same problems, and these must be solved through solutions that are practical and that can help both countries move forward, Farrugia said.

“For situations to be created as they now are, is not acceptable; but on the other hand I think Malta and Italy can cooperate and work much more together.”

Farrugia said that every case related to this subject has to be evaluated according to its own particular characteristics and that the Libyan coastguard, which was trained by both Malta and Italy with European Union funds, needs to be respected and allowed to do their jobs, whilst also raising questions on the NGOs that are currently conducting the rescue of immigrants in Libyan waters.

Farrugia also made reference to the argument he had with Salvini on social media last Saturday, saying that “anyone who knows geography knows that in reality Lampedusa is much closer to Libya than Malta.” He added: “obviously I am going to defend my country in every moment and time, and obviously if someone is not correct in what he is saying then I will have no problem in correcting him.”

When asked how his idea of co-operation between the two countries ties in with Salvini’s numerous assertions against the entry of immigrants into Italy, Farrugia stated that in fact Italy had taken in several hundred immigrants and that the current problems start when NGO ships do not allow the Libyan coastguard to do their jobs. 

“Simply saying ‘go to Malta’ is not the solution”, Farrugia said before confirming that Malta would remain in line with international laws and conventions that they are signatories of, including in cases where Malta may have to conduct a rescue.  This also includes, Farrugia said, cases were immigrants are brought into the country – an outcome which, if necessary, will occur.

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