Coronavirus pandemic forced decision to host migrants on tourist boats - Abela

Prime Minister says decision to host migrants on pleasure boats was justified due to COVID-19 crisis, despite having to relent and allow them in to Malta last weekend

The decision to host over 400 migrants on tourists boats was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Robert Abela said
The decision to host over 400 migrants on tourists boats was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Robert Abela said

Robert Abela has justified the government's decision to host over 400 migrants at sea for a number of weeks, saying this was necessary due to the fact Malta had closed its ports to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Asked by MaltaToday what position he would be taking when faced with possible similar rescue situations in the future, the Prime Minister said the government would keep on insisting with the EU to help carry the burden through relocation.

Abela - who was answering questions from the media after unveiling an post-COVID economic recovery package on Monday evening - lamented that the EU had to date not put in place a concrete relocation plan.

"When the decision [to host the migrants on four tourist boats was taken], Malta was in a situation where its ports were closed, there was a national emergency due to the coronavirus, and obligatory quarantine measures were in place. The Public Health Superintendent had ordered the closure of our seaports and airport," he said.

"There we had taken the decision in order to eliminate the risk of increasing the spread of the virus."

"Unfortunately, there has not yet been a concrete effort for relocation by the EU... but our work in this regard must continue and intensify," he said, "Let's continue underlining that this is an EU problem, not only Malta's."

Abela's reaction comes after the government decided to allow all the rescued migrants to be brought into Malta on Saturday after the situation aboard one of the pleasure boats - Captain Morgan's Europa II - escalated.

A group of migrants were reported to have grabbed kitchen knives, and threatened to blow up a gas cylinder and set rubbish on board on fire.

Questioned on whether the persons responsible would be prosecuted, Abela said that this was the police's job to decide.

He added however, that, while he condemned the incident, it also had to be taken into account that the persons concerned had been "kept at sea for 40 days in all weather." "I acknowledge that they faced certain circumstances," he said.

More in National