Prime Minister Robert Abela did not commit to allowing migrants into Malta even when ports are reopened, insisting he was determined to find an EU solution to the migration crisis.
Migrants have been aboard the vessels since the start of May after Malta closed its ports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of people on board is currently 425.
Abela conceded that the harbour cruise flotilla is not a solution to the migration crisis, but insisted that it was the best on offer that guaranteed the health and safety of people crossing the Mediterranean.
“We are not working with objects, but humans who are desperate to leave their country,” he said.
He maintained that Malta could not be expected to shoulder this burden alone, but said that relocation plans proposed by the EU were simply a bandaid and did not address human trafficking issues. The problem will need to be covered holistically in Europe and North Africa, Abela said.
However, Abela later said that he was hopeful that a relocation plan with the EU would be reached by the time the public health emergency draws to a close.
Lovin Malta asked what will happen to asylum seekers who enter Malta’s search and rescue zone if an agreement isn’t reached. Abela was assured that an agreement would be reached and stressed that he’s been working hard to achieve a concrete solution to the crisis, referencing a recent visit to Libya.
“Solutions can only be reached from Europe,” he conceded.
Migration emerged as a significant issue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Malta, Spain, and Italy have declared the ports unsafe due to the pandemic. Libya has also closed its ports due to the ongoing civil war.
Beyond the harbour cruise flotilla, Malta’s Armed Forces could potentially face charges in Italy for refusing to rescue 101 asylum seekers in Maltese waters and reportedly turning them away at gunpoint with enough fuel and the coordinates to reach Italy.
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