The Malta Independent 17 October 2019, Thursday

Watch: Change noted, but migration policies without Salvini won’t change overnight - minister

Jeremy Micallef Thursday, 19 September 2019, 08:49 Last update: about 27 days ago

It seems like there is a slight change in policy by the new Italian Interior Minister with regards to migration, Minister for Home Affairs Michael Farrugia said yesterday, but he also highlighted that change can't happen overnight.

84 migrants who were brought towards Malta on an Italian coast Guard vessel were disembarked earlier this week by the Armed Forces of Malta following a short delay while responsibility was being assigned.

This newsroom was told that the migrants were transferred onto AFM vessels outside of Maltese waters after the Italian Coast Guard rescued 84 migrants from a boat in difficulty in waters under Malta's responsibility.

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The Minister said that the help of the Italian Authorities was requested as they were closer to Lampedusa, the people were danger and that the Maltese authorities were obliged to ask for their assistance.

"When they were saved, talks went on between the two countries and the decision was taken, with agreement on both sides, as to who would take the immigrants in."

Farrugia further explained that while there was a change in policy on the Italian side, massive change did not happen overnight - particularly when there are currently laws put in place by the previous populist Interior Minister Matteo Salvini that have tied the new Italian Interior Minister's hands.

"The Minister will be here on Monday and I will be having discussion with her and other Ministers, including bilateral meetings, and certain things will be discussed and straightened out between us."

The Malta Migration Summit

A number of European Union home affairs ministers will be converging in Malta for a mini-summit on 19 September to address recurring migration standoffs, which have seen member states at loggerheads more than partners.

Several sections of the Italian media, citing diplomatic sources, have reported the summit, although there still has not been any official announcement from the Maltese government.

Maltese Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia will be hosting his counterparts from Germany, France, Italy, and Finland.

The aim will be to thrash out a solution for a temporary mechanism for disembarking migrants rescued in the central Mediterranean region.

In the meantime, up to yesterday afternoon, there were three migrant rescue boats looking for a port to let them and the migrants they rescued in.

The Alan Kurdi of the Sea Eye NGO was near Lampedusa with migrants on board, who it says were rescued in waters which are Malta's responsibility.

The Mare Jonio of the NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans has been in international waters near Lampedusa since Wednesday with 34 migrants on board.

And The Eleonore of the NGO Mission Lifeline, with the 101 migrants rescued last Monday, is also being denied permission to enter Italian or Maltese ports. 

The Maltese government had denied the latter permission to disembark on the grounds that the country has no 'legal obligation' because the migrants were rescued outside its rescue zone and because the country does not have the 'physical capacity' to accommodate more rescued migrants, even temporarily.


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