Asylum seekers reportedly waved at a group of angry anti-migrant protestors who had gathered in Senglea last night, mistakingly assuming they were welcoming them to Malta.
“The saddest thing to witness this evening was a group of sad right-wing activists (Patrijotti?) on the Senglea bastions calling out to exhausted migrants to go back to their country after six days stranded at sea, prompting the people on board to wave, naively thinking they were being welcomed,” said Times of Malta editor Herman Grech. “Europe’s humanity is getting soaked in a washing machine of venom. These cretins don’t speak out in my name. The ignorance, the ignorance….”
The 234 sub-Saharan asylum seekers, who mostly hail from Sudan, landed in Malta last night after they were stranded on the Lifeline – a vessel operated by a German NGO – for around a week. Malta and Italy had initially refused to let it dock in their ports, but Malta agreed to let it in last night after reaching an agreement with eight other European countries for their relocation.
A government spokesperson told Lovin Malta the Lifeline crew and the asylum seekers were visibly grateful to Malta after a week of uncertainty. The asylum seekers clapped and cheered as the vessel entered the Grand Harbour and thanked the authorities when they handed them food and water.
Meanwhile, the Lifeline raised the Maltese flag as it entered the harbour as a sign of courtesy.
However, members of the Moviment Patrijotti Maltin and some Senglea residents, some of whom were also holding Maltese flags, awaited their arrival atop the Senglea bastions.
“28 today, 28 tomorrow…” one man can be heard saying.
“They come from Italy everyday,” another man responded. “No boats came to Malta last year but 1,200 still applied for asylum here. They’re coming from all over the place now…from Pakistan, from everywhere.”
Other comments from the people on the bastions included claims that the migrants rape their own children and warnings that they could be carrying diseases.
The 234 people are currently housed at the initial reception centre in Marsa, where they are undergoing a preliminary assessment to ascertain whether they are applicable for asylum or not. They will be relocated to a European country if they are deemed applicable but will face deportation otherwise. A spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency told Lovin Malta the migrants are being kept in adequate conditions.
Contrary to initial reports, the Lifeline’s captain has not been arrested but spoke to the police last night and this morning about the ship’s documents. The ship itself is still docked in the Grand Harbour and its crew spent the night on it.
Malta, Italy, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway have agreed to help relocate the asylum seekers so far but no quota system has been formalised yet.
An EU summit will be held this weekend, where leaders will discuss how to deal with the migration situation in the Mediterranean.