A Nationalist councillor whose praise of Italian deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini caused a stir this weekend has insisted Malta should continue saving the lives of migrants at sea.
“At no point did I say that we shouldn’t help out people whose lives are in difficulty,” Justin Schembri said, quoting a recent article he had penned in which he argued that “Malta should save lives at sea but shouldn’t be burdened with thousands and thousands of foreigners, no matter which country they come from”.
“My reference to Salvini was solely intended to express admiration at how is stopping the illegal trafficking of vulnerable people and therefore safeguarding the national interest, despite pressure from the EU.”
“I appeal to the Maltese authorities to be of a higher stature, as our past leaders, to achieve what the people believe in, not only in terms of irregular migration but in all sectors that are having a negative impact on Malta because of the influx of foreigners into an already overpopulated country.”
“Politicians are duty-bound to speak and act in the name of their constituents and my comment was that this is what the Maltese expect of the government. My personal opinion is in line with the PN’s values to defend the national interest and human dignity and with the values of the EPP, the PN’s European family.”
Salvini has closed Italy’s ports to migrant search-and-rescue NGOs, accusing them of aiding human traffickers in Libya. Malta has taken a different stance, allowing such vessels to dock on its shores but only after other EU countries agree to relocate the migrants on board.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat appeared to take a dig at Schembri’s comment today, warning that people who use anti-migrant rhetoric must have forgotten the way Lassana Cisse Souleymane was killed in Ħal Far earlier this year in what police believe to be a racist murder.
These are the values I cherish. The values of my party. No matter what
Several PN exponents, including MPs Beppe Fenech Adami and Jason Azzopardi and Executive President Alex Perici Calascione, have also publicly distanced themselves from Schembri’s stance.