The Malta Independent 23 September 2019, Monday

TMID Editorial: The Lifeline’s 49 - A clear case of humanity

Monday, 7 January 2019, 11:28 Last update: about 10 months ago

The Archbishop of Malta’s rather unorthodox trip to the impounded migrant rescue ship on Saturday and Pope Francis’ appeal yesterday to leaders of states were the last of several attempts to unblock the situation that has blocked 49 migrants, including children and even babies on board a ship in stormy seas for days and days.

Up till the time of writing, nothing has changed. And this is very worrying, sickening even. The 49 are being used as hostages, made to suffer for the simple reason they dared to escape from a country turned into a big prison.

Meanwhile, the diatribes, especially in Italy, continue. While some are reported to be open to taking the migrants in and sharing them among European nations, others, especially Matteo Salvini, are adamantly against. And, as usual, Salvini’s word is the last word.

On the other hand, as pointed out by Prime Minister Muscat yesterday, Malta’s armed forces rescued 249 migrants in the past days and did so without complaining because these were in Malta’s area of competence and without delaying the rescue to see if these would be spread around other countries.

If one stretches this point a bit, Malta could have delayed the rescue so as not to set a precedent, but chose not to do so. For Malta to resist taking in the 49 so as not to set a precedent sounds like a rather trite argument considering we are speaking of unfortunate human beings here.

We who have been complaining these past two days about the cold weather simply have no idea what it means to be at sea in stormy seas and in such cold weather, especially to people from warmer climates who are unused to the cold.

It is all right for people in warm offices who can go home to a warm bed and a warm meal to stay up to discuss the rights and wrongs of a stated position but these people must put themselves in the shoes of the migrants being used as chess pieces.

Enough is enough and this is not the time to play around with precedents. Malta will not lose its stated position internationally if it takes these 49 in. On the contrary, its battered international name might be enhanced if it were to show more humanity.

The most obscene juxtaposition these past days were the many Epiphany re-enactments carried out in Catholic Malta while these 49 were battling waves and the cold just a short distance from Malta’s shores, enough to make one of the unfortunates plunge into the sea in desperation to try and reach Malta.

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