The Malta Independent 18 August 2019, Sunday

TMID Editorial: Migration - Bring them in now

Wednesday, 14 August 2019, 11:32 Last update: about 4 days ago

This very leading article warned two days ago that there was more trouble on the horizon brewing with the latest migrant standoff involving Malta, Italy and the NGOs who are rescuing people out there at sea.

That was two more days in which hundreds of people were left stranded at sea, two more days in which NGOs pleaded with European leaders to open a port to them and two more days in which European leaders humiliated themselves in the eyes of many.

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And lo and behold, that trouble we were speaking about is now well and truly upon us, with none other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees yesterday making a move it does not make very often, and which it makes only in the direst of circumstances – that of calling on European nations to take in the 500-odd souls stranded at sea without a port.

That call, given the ships’ locations, is directed right at Italy and Malta who are, once again, those who are able the closest safe port of call.

The European parliament had made a similar call last Friday for these same migrants, a call that had landed on deaf ears.  Its President, David Sassoli, noted how ‘Every time a vessel reaches European waters, the same scene is repeated and the same rhetoric is spouted. The latest case involves the Open Arms, a boat with 121 people on board, which has nowhere to go.

‘If the European Union were to remain indifferent to their fate, it would be piling suffering on top of suffering, and I am sure that this is not what the guardians of the European Treaties believe in their hearts to be right.’

We are sorry to note, Mr Sassoli, that Europe has not lifted a finger since your candid appeal last Friday and, in fact, the situation has been exacerbated since then and there are now 507 people on the high seas awaiting European shelter.

Richard Gere leveraged his star power last week and had made the same call, repeatedly, from the NGO ship.  But, it seems, no one in power is listening.

Is Prime Minister Joseph Muscat unable to produce an ad hoc agreement for these people, are Europe’s leaders on vacation in the middle of August, or are the decision-makers in their air-conditioned offices otherwise occupied?

Or are they still too obsessed with the blatant lie that the NGO ships are no more than taxi services.  The UNHCR put that myth to rest yesterday when it called for increased search and rescue capacity on the Central Mediterranean if lives are to be saved.

‘The role of NGO boats should be acknowledged and supported,’ the UNHCR said in no uncertain terms. ‘Their efforts are saving lives, and they should not be stigmatised or criminalised.’

So please, enough of the criminalisation of humanitarians and enough of punishing the downtrodden for having the temerity of seeking a new life to replace the hell that most of them have fled.

We need find the morality and wherewithal to take a stand and take them in now.  If Europe won’t do it as a whole or in part, then Malta should, once again, show its heart and its humanity, and do what we are being called upon to do - and shame the rest of Europe in the process.

Now that is one tangible way in which we could be, hand-down, ‘the best in Europe’ right here, right now, today.

If the government had done so between the time of writing and the time of reading, it would not have been an hour too soon.  If it still hasn’t acted, what on earth is it waiting for?

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