The Malta Independent 18 May 2021, Tuesday

Government to relocate 284 migrants; holding migrants on tourist vessels cost €1.7 million

Monday, 6 July 2020, 12:03 Last update: about 12 months ago

The Maltese government has reached an agreement for the relocation of 284 migrants to other European Union member states in an exercise coordinated by the European. 

The agreement culminates an elongated period of negotiations which saw over 400 migrants being kept on tourist vessels just outside Maltese waters, a decision referenced by the governemnt in a statement published about the relocation where they said that it was taken due to Covid-19 related safety measures. 

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The government said that it had started the process for the relocation of a group of 204 migrants, while there is a commitment between Malta and other states for the remaining 80 to be relocated as well.  The statement makes no mention which states have committed to taking the relocated migrants.

The government said that besides this, work had also began on accelarating the asylum process for migrants who came from countries which are considered to be safe. If migrants are not granted asylum status, the Maltese government will deport them back to their country of origin.  

The operation to keep the migrants onboard tourist vessels outside of Maltese waters cost a total of €1.7 million, the government said before noting that talks are still ongoing for European funds to be acquired in this regard. 

The government also said that all those held onboard the vessels had been tested for Covid-19, and all tests had come back negative. 

“Every decision taken in that moment reflected the urgency of the situation”, the government said. 

The rent for the ships totalled up to €363,440, with the Captain Morgan vessels cost €3,000 every day and the Supreme Travel vessel costing €6,500 per day. Two other companies were contacted, the government said, but were not interested in providing the service. 

33 companies were engaged to provide food and drink, sanitary products, and clothing amongst others for a total cost of €212,646.12. Another €87,741 was spent on renting boats to ferry the supplies to the migrants, while €10,908.12 was spent on disembarkation procedures.

€1 million was spent on security alone, with an average crew of 12 security officials with the migrants 24 hours a day, resulting in over 33,000 hours of security. 

The company chosen, the government said, was chosen because at the time of the operation it offered security services at the Marsa Initial Receoption Centre and hence could provide the service as quickly as possible. 

“This operation was essential in an extraordinary moment of a public health emergency and every decision was taken in the national interest and the interest of people’s health”, the government said.

The government said that the initiative was important especially as irregular immigrants were arriving in other Mediterranean countries and testing positive for Covid-19.  Besides this, they said, the operation resulted in “sending a message to European countries and the international community that Malta cannot be left alone to face this problem”. 

The government said that relocation should remain the integral principal of European politicals, especially now while the European Pact for Immigration and Asylum is being discussed. 

At the same time, the government said that it will continue to work with Libya to address this challenge as early as possible so that loss of life in the Mediterranea can be avoided. 

In fact, on the day this statement was issued, the President of Libya’s Government of National Accord Faiez Mustafa Serraj was in Malta on an official visit – the second time he has met with the Maltese government after another meeting in Tripoli last May.

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