Libya, not relocation, is only real solution to migration crisis, Robert Abela says

Prime Minister says migration issue can only be solved by tackling the source of the crisis at Libya's shores

Two groups of migrants are currently being hosted on Captain Morgan boats outside of Maltese territorial waters
Two groups of migrants are currently being hosted on Captain Morgan boats outside of Maltese territorial waters

The migration crisis can only be solved if the source of the problem, which lies at Libya's shores, is tackled, the Prime Minister said.

Robert Abela said during a One TV interview this morning that relocation of migrants was not the real solution to the crisis.

"The basic point is that relocation isn't the solution. The solution is at Libya's shores."

The problem couldnt be solved, he said "[unless] we go to the source - Libya and other African countries." 

Allowing people to keep crossing the sea on unsafe boats meant permitting human traffickers to keep making money off others' suffering, he said, with some migrants being rescued, and others not managing to survive the journey.

"Is this the solution - allowing people to cross and to possibly drown? The European solution has to be found on the Libyan coast," he reiterated.

Malta, he said, was determined to be a catalyst in encouraging Europe to find a humanitarian solution in Libya.

"The solution has to be humanitarian in nature. Some are economic migrants, but a lot of them are also fleeing their countries. The fact they resort to escaping on crowded boats shows they are suffering."

On the groups of migrants currently hosted on two Captain Morgan boats outside Maltese shores, Abela insisted that they were being given all needed sustenance and were being kept comfortable. 

However, he said that Malta had to send a message that it had reached its maximum in terms of the number of migrants it could take in, but had surpassed this limit. "There are 4,000 migrants in Malta - 1% of the population - while other countries unperturbed."

Had it not been for the intervention of the Maltese state, all migrants which the army had saved in the past would otherwise have drowned, he said.

READ ALSO | From tourist ferries to water prisons: AFM keeps press away from Captain Morgan boats

The two groups of migrants currently on Captain Morgan vessels were rescued at sea between April 30 and May 7. On April 30, the Maltese government arranged for the transfer of 57 people rescued the day before by a private fishing vessel to the Europa II, a 34.75-meter tourist ferry boat owned by Captain Morgan Cruises Ltd. On May 7, an Armed Forces of Malta patrol boat rescued 45 people and coordinated the rescue, by a fishing boat, of 78 people.

While all 18 women and children were reportedly taken ashore, the other 105 people were transferred the same day to the Bahari, a 23.59-meter tourist ferry boat owned by the same company.

That group was subsequently transferred, on May 15, to the Atlantis, a 39.6-meter ferry boat also owned by Captain Morgan Cruises.

Malta is insisting that it will not allow any more migrants into its ports until an agreement is found with the EU for their relocation amongst other member states.