Italian deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has taken to Twitter to accuse Malta of conspiring to send migrants to Italy. But Malta’s Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia has responded, insisting the island always honoured its obligations. He was retweeted by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, taking the feud to a higher level.
Salvini accused Malta of supplying 13 migrants on board extra fuel and a compass, which allowed the boat to continue its journey to Italy. Mr. Farrugia then sent out a series of posts in response to Salvini’s accusations.
The Minister of Home Affairs made it clear that Malta does carry out its duty, while Italy should “do better to give priority and care to the safety of life at sea and to abide by international obligations.”
“Malta has done much more than what was expected, and disembarked migrants in Malta on humanitarian grounds due to Italy’s systematic failure to provide any assistance.”
He then went on to give Salvini a lesson or two on the law of the sea, stating that Salvini “should understand that migrant boats steaming on high seas are not always in distress.” He explained that if migrants on a boat refuse to be rescued, then all that the Search and Rescue (SAR) authorities can do is to help them to continue on their journey.
In his post, Salvini says that Brussels is trying to intimidate Italy through Malta. After being alerted by the Italian authorities that a boat with 13 migrants in Maltese search and rescue waters that was running low on fuel, the Maltese supplied the migrants with extra fuel and a compass. The boat then arrive in Lampedusa on Friday.
Salvini is known to take a hard-line approach when it comes to the issue of migration, and this has led to a number of frequent standoffs between Malta and Italy when having to take in a boat of migrants.