All 58 of the asylum seekers recently taken in by Malta from aboard a vessel are expected to be distributed to other European countries, but one of their companions could end up staying here.
Bella, a middle-aged female Maltese terrier, was singled out by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in his tweets about yesterday’s disembarkation of asylum seekers from the NGO-operated Aquarius.
The dog, who is believed to be the first animal rescued with asylum seekers in the Mediterranean, is currently being quarantined by the Animal Welfare directorate while she undergoes extensive health check-ups. Parliamentary secretary for animal rights Clint Camilleri confirmed that preliminary tests have showed no signs of disease.
Preliminary tests show that the #migrant #dog (actually, a female #Maltese Terrier cross!) is in good health & showed no signs of disease. Currently it is isolated in quarantine & further check-ups will be held – CC @JosephMuscat_JM @MaltaGov pic.twitter.com/zl0V9VEsvF
— Clint Camilleri (@Clint_Camilleri) September 30, 2018
A spokesperson for the Environment Ministry confirmed with Lovin Malta that the dog’s owner has been identified but that he hasn’t yet indicated whether he wants to keep Bella or not.
“If the dog’s owner requests her, then we’ll have to give her back to him after she has been tested and chipped, but if not she will be put for adoption,” he said.
Bella and the 58 asylum seekers, who hail from Libya, Palestine, Syria, Pakistan and Somalia, had waited for days on the Aquarius ship in a standoff caused by Panama stripping the migrant rescue vessel of its registration.
Malta eventually agreed to bring the people into its ports, but only after France, Spain, Germany and Portugal committed themselves to relocating them in the near future.
A spokesperson for the Lifeline, a NGO-operated migrant rescue vessel that has been impounded in Malta for months, derided Muscat’s focus on Bella.
“In honourable statesmanlike tradition, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat did not let himself get distracted by the multi-dimensional complexities of asylum policy or humane values, instead using his profile to tweet about Bella, no less than seven times in one day” Lifeline said. “Today, we are all Bella; a symbol of cute, dogged determination in a dog-eat-dog world.
The Sea Watch, another NGO-operated vessel currently impounded in Malta, contrasted the kindness shown towards Bella with the distaste shown towards her human companions by tweeting “Thank God, he’s white”.