The issue of “illegal immigration” in Malta needs to be addressed at its source, and not at a point of departure to the island, Opposition Leader Bernard Grech said today.
“Migration is an issue that has been with us, is with us and will always be with us,” Grech said, “but we have an obligation as a country to address this at source – and not in Libya, which is just where they leave from.”
“We need to see what the issues are in their home countries and, along with our partners in the European Union, we have to put them to task so we see that we can truly – and not just with words – do to address this problem,” he said. Grech said he had no doubt along with Malta’s partners in the EU, the migration problem could be finally addressed, and not just “swept under the rug”.
This comes after three boats carrying 270 migrants in the vicinity of Maltas Search and Rescue zone were taken to Lampedusa, Italy, among claims that Maltese forces were actively “hindering” the boat’s rescue and after Prime Minister Robert Abela held talks with new interim leader in Libya Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.
“I’ve always been clear: the question of immigration is something that needs to be taken seriously, we can’t view it just as some issue that we address in a populist way,” Grech said today in an interview on NET.
“We can’t just leave behind a person – children, women or men – who are in danger or at risk of dying.”
When asked what he would do with the boats if he was Prime Minister last week, Grech said that while he would always put the security of the country first, he would “never abandon the fundamental rights of a person” and ensure he had all relevant information before taking a decision. Then, that decision would be made transparent to the public.
“Every individual needs to ensure his own security but as a country we need to understand that we have international responsibilities, and moral responsibilities,” he said.
Saying Malta mustn’t forget it’s part of the world as well, he urged for more concrete action to be taken to stem the flow of migrants towards Europe and Malta by addressing the reason they are fleeing their countries at source.
Migration has long been a major headache for successive governments in Malta.
Boats regularly arrive on Maltese shores, though some do not make it. In Easter 2020, at least 12 people died at sea, a tragedy dubbed “an Easter Massacre” by local NGO Repubblika. The group accused Prime Minister Robert Abela and other officials of giving orders for an illegal pushback against conventions of international law.