Left: Italy’s deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, Right: Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
The diplomatic spat between Malta and Italy continued this afternoon after Italy’s deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini accused the island of failing to take in 50 asylum seekers it had promised to relocate six months ago.
“After 447 migrants landed in Pozzallo on 16th July 2018, a group of European countries had agreed to relocate 270 of them but only 129 have actually been relocated,” Salvini said in a Facebook post.
Back in July, Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat confirmed that the government had agreed to relocate some of the migrants that had been stranded at sea. Although the government didn’t say how many migrants Malta had agreed to take in, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the island had agreed to take in 50.
However, according to Salvini’s Facebook post, Malta has not yet taken in any of the 50 migrants it had promised to take in back then. He added that only France has so far fulfilled its promise, with Germany only taking in 23 out of a pledged 50, Portugal taking 19 out of a planned 50, Ireland 16 out of a planned 20 and Spain 21 out of a planned 50.
“Why do we still agree to these deals when they’re laughing in our faces?” he asked.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has not reacted to Lovin Malta’s request for comment as of the time of writing.
Migrants aboard the Sea-Watch 3 vessel after being granted permission to land in Malta this afternoon
Salvini’s social media outburst came shortly after Italy agreed to take in some of the 49 migrants which docked in Malta this afternoon after 19 days out at sea on two NGO-run vessels.
In a press conference, Muscat confirmed that Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy had agreed to take in the migrants that had been rescued by the NGO vessels Sea Watch 3 and Prof. Albrecht Penck.
Moreover, these eight member states also agreed to relocate 131 asylum seekers which Malta’s armed forces had rescued from Maltese waters in recent weeks. A further 44 Bangledishi migrants which had been rescued by Malta will be deported to their home country in an operation that will be coordinated by EU authorities.
However, Salvini immediately threw a spanner in the works, warning that he will not authorise the entry of any of these migrants into Italy.
“I don’t care if there are eight or 88, I’m not giving authorisation for anyone to enter Italy,” La Repubblica quoted him as saying. “These sorts of decisions require consultation before they’re taken. I don’t understand why [Prime Minister Giuseppe] Conte rushed this. This won’t bring down the government, but I’ll be demanding clarifications immediately”.