EU migration plans are as bad as Trump’s

If you thought Trump’s travel ban was bad, the EU migration plans pushed by Malta are as inhumane and unlawful 

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (Photo: European Council)
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (Photo: European Council)

The economy minister is allegedly caught with his pants down (while blaming cold water for his shrinking reputation) and the whole country is talking about it. I won’t compare the outcry to that of the Panama Papers revelations. For Chris Cardona’s alleged visit to a brothel in Germany has conveniently shifted attention from Malta’s shocking proposals to stretch the EU’s borders down south, all the way to the Libyan shore.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, egged on by the Opposition’s challenge to “say something” about Trump’s travel ban on citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries, described the executive order as “heavy-handed” and said “the Maltese government clearly disagrees with discrimination based on origin or religion.”

Really? “Heavy handed” is all he could come up with?

A pretty lame response at first glance, but when taken in the context of what Muscat is proposing at a European level it is indicative of where Muscat and his government’s heart is.

While Trump’s executive order is illegal because discrimination on nationality alone is forbidden under human rights law, Muscat’s proposal to send migrants and refugees back to Libya, by suspending the international principle of ‘non-refoulement’ is equally unlawful.

It seems that in his heart of hearts, Muscat would like to congratulate Trump but supporting Trump openly is not fashionable yet.

Muscat’s proposal – backed by most EU countries – includes a stunning suggestion to suspend the international humanitarian rule that prohibits pushbacks of migrants fleeing persecution, in times of particular crisis.

Libya is a failed state where asylum-seekers are regularly beaten up, raped and murdered by militias and local security forces. Libya is yet to sign and ratify the 1951 Geneva Convention on the protection of refugees and the latest Amnesty International report shows that many of the around 250,000 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in Libya face serious abuses, discrimination and labour exploitation.

Maybe, German chancellor Angela Merkel should revise her notes on the Geneva Convention again before meeting her fellow EU leaders in Malta on Friday.

According to the 2015/16 AI report, members of religious minorities, especially Christians, were particularly targeted by armed groups seeking to enforce their own interpretation of Islamic law. “Foreign nationals who entered Libya irregularly were subject to extortion, torture, abduction and sometimes sexual violence by criminal gangs engaged in smuggling and people trafficking.”

Yet, Muscat wants to send asylum seekers back to Libya and pay Libya to allow the EU to set up camps where migrants are screened. This is absolutely intolerable.

Providing protection to refugees and allowing people to seek asylum is not about doing them a favour in the hope that it will boost the economy. But rather it is about a legal, political and moral obligation that we have to protect people fleeing persecution, war, violence and in the near future we'll probably need to add global warming to the list.

The multiple benefits migrants of all hues bring to our societies and communities are a bonus, but should not be the reason for offering protection or for defending their right to seek protection.

Sending people back to Libya is in breach of Malta's international legal obligations but so far not a word from the PN, whose former deputy leader Tonio Borg repatriated over 200 Eritreans in 2002 in the full knowledge that they would be tortured and murdered on arrival as happened to most of them on their return.

The PN’s silence is deafening but not surprising. Both Labour and the PN are indistinguishable, both vying for power by being everything for everyone and accepting hefty gifts from everyone.

Muscat and opposition leader Simon Busuttil would like to make us believe that they are diametrically opposed. But they are not. They’re interchangeable and sadly the party apparatchiks and supporters cannot see this because their love for the party blinds them (or are in denial).

Malta’s political parties have sold the family silver and occupied what remains of the State for far too long: local councils, social welfare institutions, Air Malta, the Freeport, government agencies, cultural institutions, hospitals, most of the media and PBS to mention a few.

The State functions exclusively in the interest of the parties and their financial masters. The people – very much like a Xarabank audience – clap and boo according to what serves their short-sighted interests. In the meantime, democracy, the environment and the most vulnerable cry. In silence.