[WATCH] Captain Morgan crew asked to be saved, migrants threatened to blow up gas cylinder - PM

Robert Abela says situation on board tourist boat escalated quickly, with migrants brandishing knives they took from the kitchen and threatening to blow up a gas cylinder

Migrants aboard the Captain Morgan vessel Europe II had given the government a 30-minute ultimatum, after which they would kidnap the crew, Robert Abela said
Migrants aboard the Captain Morgan vessel Europe II had given the government a 30-minute ultimatum, after which they would kidnap the crew, Robert Abela said

The situation aboard one of the tourist boat hosting people rescue at sea escalated quickly yesterday, with migrants having taken knives from the vessel's kitchen, and threatened to blow up a gas cylinder and burn waste material, the Prime Minister said.

Robert Abela said on Sunday that the crew aboard one of the boats, the Captain Morgan vessel Europa II, had started asking the Maltese authorities to save them in view of the rapidly deteriorating situation.

Abela, who was being interview on ONE TV, said that he had choosen not to opt for the army to board the ship and take control of it, since this would have come with a number of risk, including the possible loss of lives.

On Satruday, over 400 migrants held offshore on four tourist boats were allowed to disembark in Malta as punishing weather and a five-week imprisonment out at sea pushed people on the brink of sanity. 

"The AFM were equipped to seize the vessel under its control. I know I might have been applauded for such a decision... but it would have placed lives at risk," Abela said, highlighting that he was forced to choose between a populist decision of keeping the migrants onboard the boats, or safeguarding the safety of the crew members.

"The army warned us that [if they boarded the ship] this would lead to a situation where crew members, soldiers or migrants could be hurt, and the loss of lives was also possible."

Abela insisted that, before the incident, Malta still had no intention of allowing the migrants to enter its ports. 

"Until yesterday, we had no intention of bringing the migrants in - we planned to continue holding our ground until relocation happened. But at one point we were informed by the crew that the migrants had enetered the kitchen and take some knives, and were threatening to blow up a gas cylinder and burn rubish."

He said that the migrants had given the government a 30-minute within which to allow them in to Malta, or else they would take control of the ship and kidnap its crew.

"The crew member were telling us - including my communicating with me directly - to save them... many of the crew were Maltese."

The Prime Minister acknowledged the plight of the migrants who had been at sea, in all kinds of weather, for weeks. "We abided by our obligation to rescue them, and we provided them with the basic necessities. But one wouldn't even bare to spend 40 days at sea on a cruise liner, let alone a relatively small vessel."

"The EU was aware of all this, but it washed its hands," he lamented.

*EU no longer has relocation excuse*

Now that the migrants had been brought to Malta, the EU no longer had an excuse to avoid relocation talks, Abela said.

"From now on our efforts for relocation will intensify. The EU had said it would only help us if we allowed the migrants in. This excuse no longer holds water. So I expect all relocation pledges to now materialise. COVID-19 is behind us now..." he said.

He also underscored that any migrants found to not be entitled to asylum would be reptariated to their countries.

*Talks with Libya prevented more migrants arriving in Malta*

Abela underlined that all the 425 migrants who had been held on the tourist boats and were allowed in to Malta had been rescue previous to the governmnt's official visit to Libya last months to hold talks.

The visit, on 28 May, led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Abela and Libya’s Government of National Accord for the setting up joint coordination units to tackle the migration crisis.

The Prime Minister said that, had such an MOU not been signed, another 1,500 migrants would have headed towards Malta's territorial waters.

Abela also spoke about the danger nature of the visit to Libya, saying that it had been very hard to find a plane to fly to Maltese delegation to the war-thorn country, since the aircraft risked being shot down as it landed or after take-off.

"We finally found a plane which came for us from outside Malta. They advised us that COVID was not the major problem - the problem was that they plane could be shot down... I cannot forget my wife reminding me that we have an eight-year-old daughter," he said.