The Malta Independent 4 June 2020, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Migration - More trouble on the horizon

Monday, 12 August 2019, 10:39 Last update: about 11 months ago

The latest political chess move by Matteo Salvini could spell big trouble for Malta.

The Italian firebrand interior minister has withdrawn his party’s support for Giueppe Conte’s coalition government and the country seems to be heading to the polls once again.

Salvini, who already sees himself as Italy’s next prime minister, is encouraged by increasing support for his hard line migration policies and Italy’s economic situation.


He has already shown that he likes doing things his way, even if some of his actions have failed to earn the backing of the government or the national authorities. Indeed, his explicit orders not to let any migrant ships dock in Italy have been defied. But if Salvini were to become prime minister, things might take a different turn.

The move comes at a time when Malta and Italy are facing calls to open their ports to an NGO vessel with over 150 migrants on board.

Malta, acting in line with its international obligations, offered on Saturday to take in a group of 39 migrants that were rescued inside its search and rescue area. But it has refused to let in another 121 migrants, who are also stranded on the vessel near Lampedusa, because they were rescued in an area that Malta is not legally responsible for.

The Maltese government has, on several occasions allowed NGO migrant vessels to dock in its ports after a number of EU member states had promised to share the burden.

The problem is that it is always the same few EU member states that offer to help. Many others always remain silent or uncooperative.

This is partly the reason why Salvini is gaining so much support in Italy when it comes to migration. Because, despite all the talk, Europe does not practice solidarity. Countries like Italy and Malta will always bear the brunt of migration flows because of their geographical position. But migration should be a European-wide issue, not a problem for Malta and Italy to solve on their own.

Not only are many EU member states uncooperative, but official EU maritime patrol and rescue missions have been stopped. A few months back, the EU had declared Libya to be a safe country, but the troubled North African state is anything but safe.

All the funds pledged to tackle migration at its point of origin and to train the Libyan authorities have failed to provide the desired result and the situation in the Mediterranean remains pretty much the same. People are dying at sea every day.

The NGOs have rushed in to fill the vacuum left by national authorities but they are unwillingly creating an unfair situation for southern Mediterranean countries. The rescue boats almost always head towards Malta and Italy, who are left to deal with the problem alone.

While Malta has always tried to find a solution to end countless migrant standoffs, it cannot allow itself to be taken for granted by its European partners. The rules have to be followed but all EU member states need to pitch in and help us out.

If European solidarity remains elusive, people like Matteo Salvini will only get stronger and bolder. An Italy led by Salvini will likely opt for extreme measures and a total boycott when it comes to migrant rescues, and Malta can only suffer from such a scenario.


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