The Malta Independent 24 October 2021, Sunday

Captain Morgan incident: Migrants stole knives, threatened to set vessel on fire – PM

Neil Camilleri Sunday, 7 June 2020, 11:23 Last update: about 2 years ago

A number of migrants who were being held on a Captain Morgan vessel stole knives from the kitchen and threatened to blow up gas cylinders, Prime Minister Robert Abela said on Sunday.

Speaking on party media, Abela explained why the government took the decision to allow the 400 migrants to disembark in Malta. The four private vessels were allowed to dock on Saturday evening. Some of the migrants had been at sea for over forty days.

Abela said the Armed Forces had considered boarding the vessel - the Europa II - but warned that there could be injuries or even deaths.

"Up until Saturday morning, we had no intention of allowing the vessels to dock, but the situation escalated. The security forces told us that some migrants had barged into the kitchen and stole knives. They were threatening the crew and saying they would set gas cylinders on fire."

Abela said at one point he was communicating directly with the migrants on board, who were asking the government to save them.

"We took a difficult decision. The easiest thing to do would have been to send the army on board, take over and resolve the situation. But I did not want to risk people's lives," Abela continued.

"We also kept in mind that some of these people had been at sea for over 40 days. We did our duty, saved them and gave them their basic needs. But a person cannot even spend 40 days on a luxury cruise."

The EU washed its hands of the problem and made promises but delivered only empty talk, Abela said, adding that he understood people's anger because he was angry too.

"Some countries made pledges but said they would only follow through if we opened our ports. The EU knew that there were 400 migrants on board the vessel and told us we were not doing the right thing, but it did nothing to help us. Once again, we had to carry the burden alone."


Bulletproof vests

Abela said Malta did its utmost. "We went to Libya to try and find a solution, despite the risks that there are."

"It was not easy. Initially, we could not even find a plane to take us there, as no company would insure a flight to Libya. We were told about the risks, which included someone shooting us down. We had a bulletproof vest in our luggage. My wife told me to keep in mind that we have an eight-year-old daughter. To those who say we are too soft on migration I say, these are the risks that we took."

Abela said that, despite these efforts, there are people who want to see him in prison. "We are operating in very difficult circumstances, yet we are facing the possibility the inquiry will be reopened," he said, referring to Repubblika's call for the P52 inquiry to be reviewed.

"The EU told us that they would help only once we reopened our ports. There are no more excuses now. The EU must act. I expect that the relocation concept takes a tangible form as from Monday."

The PM said some of the migrants brought in on Saturday  do not qualify for asylum and they will be returned to their home countries. Relocation alone is not the answer, he said.


Pilot sackings - 'Not too late'

Turning to Air Malta, the PM said the ball is now in ALPA's court, adding that it still not too late. On Saturday, the airline dismissed 69 pilots after their union refused to accept pay cuts.

"Covid-19 brought about an unprecedented situation. The airline's current income is zero, and ALPA needs to acknowledge this," Abela said.

He referred to a clause in the pilots' contract which says they are entitled to a sum of €700,000 if made redundant. This would have cost the airline €37 million he said, adding that he found the clause hard to understand.

It also did not make sense for a productive airline to have chauffeur driven pilots, he added.

"ALPA has not been exactly cooperative throughout the years, Abela said.  "Instead of incentivising the airline's efficient operations, ALPA keeps creating problems over minor issues."

It is not too late, he said, but the redundancies "will not be reversed unless ALPA changes its stand and comes up with proposals that make sense and safeguard the airline and all of its employees."



Abela also spoke about the budget that will be unveiled on Monday. He described it as a strong stimulus package with measures aimed at strengthening businesses.

He noted that people have responded to the easing of measures and have started going out again and spending. "That is what we want, go out and have fun, and leave the worrying to us."

Other countries were put to their knees as a result of the pandemic, but this did not happen in Malta, he said. "We were brilliant in the way we tackled this from a medical angle and in the measures we introduced to safeguard jobs. We are willing to keep helping businesses in any way we can," he said, suggesting that the government could help establishments with their rent payments.

"We have always been a government that gives, not a one that introduces taxes."

  • don't miss