“Malta is full up”.
Prime Minister Robert Abela took a hard line stance with regards irregular migration today, warning Malta cannot cope with more arrivals and taking a dig at PN leader candidate Bernard Grech in the process.
“I was annoyed when I heard the establishment’s candidate for PN leader state that Malta isn’t full up,” Abela said when interviewed by Peppi Azzopardi on ONE TV. “Does this mean that his message to Europe will be that Malta isn’t full up if he becomes Prime Minister?”
“I’ve been consistently telling the European Commission and the European Council that Malta is full up and that we’re doing more than our utmost and it bothers me that an Opposition leader candidate doesn’t agree with me because we risk ending up in a fragile situation whereby we can say we can take more migrants.”
Abela was referring to a comment Grech passed when quipped by Azzopardi on the topic of irregular migration on a Xarabank episode which was aired on Lovin Malta last month.
Asked by Azzopardi whether Malta is full up, Grech said that Malta isn’t a bus.
“We must keep on growing and we need an economy that keeps growing,” Grech argued. “The people must keep growing both from an educational and a cultural perspective, and we must remain open to the world.”
“It’s not an issue of numbers but we must ensure the numbers aren’t exaggerated and sudden.”
He also said Malta will be in a better position to negotiate an agreement with the EU on the burden sharing of irregular migrants once the country has improved its international reputation.
In his interview today, Azzopardi challenged Abela about the conditions faced by migrants in Libya, noting the Pope Francis has compared migrant detention centres in the North African country to concentration camps.
To highlight the dangers faced by migrants in Libya, he also referred to how the Prime Minister’s wife Lydia Abela had raised concerns about his personal safety prior to his visit to the country earlier this year.
“If I fight with my wife, my son shouldn’t suffer in the process, and that’s what you’re doing,” Azzopardi argued, comparing the EU to the wife and the migrants to the son.
Abela responded that Azzopardi’s implication was that Malta should carry the burden, noting the lack of will show by EU member states when 27 migrants were left stranded on a commercial vessel outside Maltese waters for 38 days before Italy eventually agreed to take them in.
“The same member states who had so much to say about Malta when we kept migrants on board a Captain Morgan vessel didn’t lift a finger here,” he said. “We’re talking about 27 people here; each member state would only have taken one migrant each but none of them wanted to, and neither did Tunisia.”
“Malta has taken in thousands of migrants in recent months and 1% of our population now consists of irregular migrants. My position is that Malta is full up.”
What do you make of the Prime Minister’s comments?