Malta PM denounces criminal report over migrant deaths

Robert Abela insists ‘government will keep working in national interest’ despite police complaint filed by NGO over migrant stand-off

Prime Minister Robert Abela during the press conference on Friday evening
Prime Minister Robert Abela during the press conference on Friday evening

The Prime Minister has slammed the police reports filed by Repubblika against him, the AFM commander and a patrol boat crew, saying this has served to place an additional burden on the army as it fights to help control COVID-19's spread.

Robert Abela said that he, army commander Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi and the 11-strong crew of the AFM P52 partol boat were now under police investigation for the voluntary homicide of migrants at sea.

On Thursday, Repubblika filed two police reports, one regarding the claimed sabotage of a vessel carrying migrants by AFM officials, and another against the Prime Minister and army commander over their alleged inaction to save people at sea.

In a statement to the press on Friday, Abela, with his Cabinet members behind him, said that, due to the police reports, an immediate magisterial inquiry on all 11 soldiers, Curmi and himself had been started. Such an accusation of voluntary homicide carried a penalty of life in prison, he noted.

"I feel sad - because right at this moment when all our [disciplined forces] are dedicated to their efforts to fight the coronavirus, 12 AFM members will be disrupted in their work," Abela said.

"Instead of saluting them, there are those who want to send them to prison. This will continue diluting our limited sea resources and will dishearten the forces," he said.

The police reports, Abela insisted, would not stop the government from doing what was needed in the national interest. "Our love for the Maltese people and our country is too big for us to give up in this important moment."

He said the attempts to get him and the other concerned parties sent to prison only "gives us more courage to keep working for our country."

Abela stressed that his conscience was clear, and emphasised that Malta was currently not a safe place for the disembarkation of migants in light of the COVID-19 situation, and that rescue at sea could not be guaranteed.

"Resources are all focused on containing the spread," he said.