On irregular migration, Adrian Delia is right

There is widespread agreement that Malta cannot, and should not cater for large numbers of people who travel to Malta illegally

(File photo)
(File photo)

He supported government’s stand in a tiff with Italy a few weeks ago. When Rome insisted that Malta should take more than six hundred irregular migrants or rather, when Rome was trying to shift its responsibility on to tiny Malta, the Maltese government refused to budge and Joseph Muscat had the full backing of Adrian Delia. Since then, Adrian Delia’s Nationalist Party has been supporting government’s ‘national-interest-first’ position, and still does.

Delia, who is morphing into a strong leader – despite trust ratings not yet in his favour, did not succumb to pressure from people who, foolishly, thought that Malta should have bowed to Italian pressure, citing humanitarian reasons.

Yes, human lives matter – for this is a human tragedy, but international laws are to be respected and precedents avoided at all cost. Had the Maltese government succumbed to pressure from the new, far-right administration in Rome, in a matter of hours, hundreds, if not thousands of men, women and children would have landed in Malta, creating a humanitarian disaster since Malta does not have the resources to cope with large numbers. It never had, and it never will.

At the time of writing, Wednesday afternoon, the Prime Minister called the press to state that the MV Lifeline, with 234 migrant passengers on board, would dock in Malta after eight European Union member states have agreed to jointly distribute the people on board amongst themselves. Malta, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Belgium have all agreed to take in a share of the migrants aboard the vessel.

But the Prime Minister insisted that the ‘’ad hoc’ solution could not be considered a blueprint for how EU member states would handle migrant sea rescues going forward. And that is the crux of the matter, for there shall be more ‘MV Lifelines’ in the coming days and weeks. On this matter, the Nationalist Party leader called the press to demand straight forward answers from Castille.

National interest dictates that answers are given, for this is a matter which tops people’s concerns as shown by countless public opinion surveys conducted by this newspaper.

Delia asked government to come clean about its long-term plan on migration; to state how many migrants Malta could take; whether there were any plans in place, and whether this latest agreement would be a one-off.

And then the elephant in the room; for Delia asked what has now become the proverbial million-dollar-question, ‘Was there any agreement between Malta and Italy, or between Joseph Muscat and Matteo Renzi , over the last five years which saw a dramatic decrease of migrants landing in Malta – and if so, what did it consist of?’

As the nation waits for government replies, the Opposition would continue, and rightly so, prioritising national interest.

This is not to suggest that government and Opposition are at loggerheads on this matter – for they are not; they are supporting one another for that is what national interest demands; however, people have a right to know what are the government’s long-term solutions on this most pressing of matters.

There is widespread agreement that Malta cannot, and should not cater for large numbers of people who travel to Malta illegally, and those who do, and are not eligible for asylum should be sent back to their country immediately.

Reception centres

Earlier on this month, European Union leaders insisted that reception centres should be set up in third world countries to vet would-be asylum seekers, thus avoiding thousands of people crossing the Mediterranean which, for years now, has turned into a mass grave of men, women and children who flee their country in the hope of a better life.

The problem with reception centres, however, is where to place them. Libya – a country torn by civil war and ravaged by militias – refuses to host the centres on its soil. Countries in the horns of Africa refuse to help.

There are no clear cut solutions, and clearly, the European Union has failed countries like Malta and Italy who, for years, have had to deal directly with this humanitarian crisis due to their close proximity to Northern Africa. Brussels failed thousands of young men and women, and children who lost their lives at sea.

When hundreds of migrants are boarded on vessels by human traffickers an emergency situation develops and EU summits are called, but no solutions are found.

Shared responsibility is the last thing on EU leaders minds at such gatherings – leaving Rome and Valletta to bear the brunt; which is why Malta is right in taking a strong position and the Opposition in supporting Malta in its stand.

However, it is now high time for government to come clean and explain the way forward – for irregular migration is going to be the most pressing issue this summer.