The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Migration - A new crisis brewing

Friday, 14 May 2021, 08:13 Last update: about 2 months ago

While most of the Maltese population is currently busy debating a pink Eurovision outfit, a masturbating priest and now a bombshell Private Member’s Bill to decriminalise abortion, a new migration crisis is brewing a few miles off our coast.

While not much attention is being paid to it now, migration is likely to be one of the dominating issues during the coming months and, hopefully, we will not see a repetition of the things that happened last year.


Hopefully, and we say this very sceptically, the EU will finally get its act together and realise that amidst a pandemic and broken economies, countries like Malta and Italy need all the help they can get.

We have already seen a few boatloads of migrants rescued by the Maltese armed forces, but Italy is certainly bearing the brunt of this year’s migration flow. Over the past weekend, more than two-thousand migrants landed at Lampedusa.

May is not usually a peak month for migration, so if this week’s events are anything to go by, this will not be a good year for countries on Europe’s Mediterranean border.

The situation will probably be made worse as this year migrants will have another reason to reach Europe, apart from peace and economic stability: safety from Covid-19.

Europe’s success in dealing with the pandemic and rolling out the vaccine has undoubtedly made it even more of a safe haven.

But this success from a health perspective has had serious consequences on the economies of the entire bloc, which is why Europe must act as one. Malta, Italy, Greece and other Mediterranean countries cannot be left to bear the brunt alone.

We have already seen what happens when Europe turns the other way: overcrowded reception centres where the virus spreads like wildfire and hundreds of people held on ‘pleasure boats’ under the sweltering sun miles off the coast.

The bottom line is that the EU’s reluctance to show true solidarity on migration, coupled with Malta and Italy’s hard-headedness and the complications arising from the pandemic will mean more hardship for these unfortunate souls whose only aim is to try and seek a better life for themselves and their loved ones.

We have already seen many lives lost to indifference this year. A couple of weeks back, 130 people drowned as Europe looked on. Despite the desperate pleas for help, no country stepped in to provide assistance, and people were left to perish.

The biggest shame of it all was that many people were barely moved by the tragedy. The loss of life at sea and human rights abuses inside migrant centres have become acceptable to us, it seems.

It is true that for many governments, the biggest priority right now is fighting the pandemic and reviving ailing economies. The irony is that governments are trying to save lives at home but are ignoring the lives lost just outside their borders.

We understand that migration is a bothersome issue, especially in times like these, and countries will always tend to the needs of their own citizens first. But the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to let people drown in our seas.  The countries on the front line cannot abdicate their duties, but Europe must also ensure that all its members pitch in, and that this has to be a collective effort.

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