The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

Migration - Captain Morgan: Government says it went for cheapest option, will publish costs

Neil Camilleri Sunday, 10 May 2020, 07:30 Last update: about 19 days ago

The government chose Captain Morgan to provide two vessels on which to keep rescued migrants because the company offered the cheapest price, a government spokesperson has told The Malta Independent on Sunday.

The Office of the Prime Minister also said that it will be publishing the costs at the end of the operation. Meanwhile, the government is insisting that the initiative should be paid for by the European Union.

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Last week, the government chartered Captain Morgan’s Europa II and instructed it to anchor 13 miles off the eastern coast, just outside Maltese territorial waters. 58 migrants who were rescued in an operation coordinated by Malta were transferred onto the ship, which is carrying food and medical supplies.

This week, a second Captain Morgan vessel, the Bahari, was chartered for a similar purpose after another 123 migrants were rescued in two separate operations. One group was recued by an Armed Forces of Malta patrol boat while the other group was rescued by a private vessel at the request of the Maltese authorities.

18 women and children rescued in this week’s operation were brought to Malta while the other 105 people were transferred onto the Bahari.

The government has closed all Maltese ports to migrant vessels amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

An OPM spokesperson said that, “as the smallest member state, Malta is facing disproportionate pressures and challenges related to the protection of the EU’s southern borders. Therefore, the Government continues to insist that this initiative will be funded by the European Union.”

TVM reported on Friday that there were doubts on whether the EU would accept to pay for the vessels since they are located in international waters.

The OPM also said that other boat owners were not excluded from offering the service, “and authorities followed a procedure whereby the boat owner offering the cheapest price, in a situation of emergency and immediacy, was selected to provide the service.”

The relative costs will be transparently provided in the appropriate fora at the end of this operation, the OPM said.

The government also said that Malta will continue to reiterate the importance of EU solidarity. “Illegal immigration is not Malta’s problem, its Europe’s problem.”

Earlier this week, sources said only Portugal had replied to Malta’s call for help, and has offered to take six migrants.

 

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