As the Black Lives Matter movement ripples its way through the Maltese public’s imagination, a group of students have focused their attentions on ensuring the safe entry into Malta of 425 African migrants being detained on board harbour cruise boats offshore.
Some of the migrants on board have been on the boats for five weeks after Malta closed its ports during the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision to use a makeshift flotilla to house rescued migrants came after weeks of diplomatic standoffs and the deaths of 12 men.
Xandru Cassar, the lead protestor, has been standing outside of Parliament over the past week handing out letters to MPs despite vicious criticism on online comments boards. MPs have ignored him so far.
“The aim is to put pressure on our elected representatives to respect the basic human rights of these people – by virtue of their humanity, they deserve to be on dry land in a safe port. They are being prevented from applying for asylum – as far as we know – and worse, they are being held illegally in inhumane conditions, that are degrading and tortuous.”
Cassar has been joined by more and more students in each passing visit and today they’ll be giving a press briefing on their next plans at 4.30pm.
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.
Prime Minister Robert Abela recently declared that Malta will return to “normality” on Friday 5th June, with airports and ports opening up on 1st July. However, he has refused to commit to allowing asylum seekers into the country after that day.
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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