Malta’s makeshift flotilla of privately-owned harbour cruise boats to house asylum seekers was costing taxpayers over €15,000 every single day, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri has revealed.
Speaking after a parliamentary question from MP Jason Azzopardi, Camilleri revealed that Captain Morgan and Supreme Cruises charged a daily fee of €3,000 and €6,500 for each vessel respectively. The fees were issued out through direct order and did not follow any bidding procedure.
Captain Morgan had sent out three harbour cruise boats for the mission. The first was sent out on 30th April, the second on 7th May, and the third on 15th May. Meanwhile, Supreme Cruises were brought in on 28th May when the number of people on the boats had grown to 425.
The asylum seekers and irregular migrants on board were brought to Malta on 7th June amid reports of growing unrest on the harbour cruise boats following poor weather. Some people had called the harbour cruise boats home for around 40 days.
Until today, the government refused to divulge how much it had spent on the mission. Rough estimates indicate that Captain Morgan could have charged close to €285,000 for their role while Supreme was paid €65,000 for ten days of operations. Unfortunately, no specific breakdown of the costs was revealed by Camilleri.
Malta’s Home Affairs Ministry are refusing to answer questions on the issue elsewhere, declining to even acknowledge questions sent over allegations that a private security team handled the crew on board.
So far, it seems the fees have been paid out by Maltese taxpayers, but Prime Minister Robert Abela remains adamant that the EU will foot the bill despite the EU Commission insisting it will not.
Migration emerged as a significant issue during the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.
Abela has recently struck an agreement between Malta and Libya to tackle the migration crisis in the Mediterranean. The deal will see the creation of two new co-ordination centres in both countries.
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