Malta left to fend for itself, Bartolo in latest tirade over lack of EU solidarity on migration

Greek history inspires Evarist Bartolo: ‘The weak find many who will preach to them… fewer who will help them’

Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo
Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo

Evarist Bartolo resorted to Greek history, particularly the Melian siege, to outline how Malta has been left to fend for itself on the migration issue.

The Foreign Minister, who last Saturday openly spoke of his frustration at the lack of EU solidarity on migration, cited the Melian siege that happened 2,436 years ago in his latest Facebook missive on Monday morning.

The flashback from Greek history recounts how Athens, at the time at war with Sparta, had invaded the small island of Melos, which opted to stay neutral.

The siege as recounted by ancient Greek historian Thucydides is characterised by the phrase, “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”.

Bartolo held no punches to describe the pressure Malta faces after it closed its ports to migrant arrivals because of the COVID-19 emergency.

With Italy doing likewise and no EU strategy in place to relocate migrants, Malta has refused to send out army vessels to perform rescue operations but has been involved in coordinating rescues using private ships.

A group of migrants rescued last week are now on board a Captain Morgan pleasure boat chartered by the Maltese government that is anchored just outside territorial waters. Over the weekend, another group of migrants rescued by a commercial vessel are still waiting outside Lampedusa for directions on where to disembark.

The situation came to a head after Easter when Malta is believed to have staved off a rescue operation for days before dispatching a fishing vessel to rescue a group of migrants. The people were taken back to Tripoli but 12 had died at sea. The case is now subject of a magisterial inquiry.

Malta’s stand has provoked criticism from human rights activists and NGOs that work with migrants.

“The weak find many who will preach to them. Those who investigate them. Those who accuse them. Those who condemn them. They find far fewer who will help them,” Bartolo wrote on his Facebook.

He added that as far as responsibilities, international obligations, laws and conventions are concerned, small countries are expected to abide by them as much as big ones.

“[But] when it comes to solidarity, when the weak expect to be helped by the strong, they are left to fend for themselves,” he continued.

Malta and Italy have experienced a 400% increase in migrant arrivals in the first three months of the year, according to information given by Frontex, the EU border agency.

The migrant departures are the result of war in Libya that has been intensifying between the forces of eastern-based General Khalifa Haftar and the UN-recognised Government of National Accord based in Tripoli.

READ ALSO: Malta courts Turkey in bid on migrant impasse with Libya

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