Updated | Joseph Muscat rattles EU cage on pushbacks

‘Strasbourg court did not offer solutions’ – Prime Minister when questioned on illegality of pushbacks employed by Italy

Joseph Muscat will meet EU president Herman van Rompuy in Malta next week
Joseph Muscat will meet EU president Herman van Rompuy in Malta next week

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has reaffirmed his government's position not to exclude the controversial pushbacks of migrants at sea, even though he has acknowledged that the practice employed by the Italian government in the past was found to be illegal by the European Court of Human Rights.

Muscat today brushed aside criticism from NGOs who took his position on migrant pushbacks to task, saying that his government had a mandate to take a "strong position".

"I believe I have a mandate to take a strong stand, not with those in need because we saved people who were drowning, but to send a clear signal to politicians," Muscat said.

In the aftermath of the rescue of some 290 migrants at sea, Muscat called on EU president Herman van Rompuy to demand concrete assistance on migration and asylum, under pain of Malta using its veto to hamstring EU business.

Muscat today said the NGOs' criticism of his position was a measure of consistence, but he said that equally his position on migration and the EU has been consistent.

"My position is not something new. I said this before the election. We are now putting it in practice," Muscat said of his demands that the EU helps out member states affected by migrant arrivals, in the same way that the EU helped bail out member states with high debts.

When pressed on the illegality of pushbacks and a court sentence of the European Court of Human Rights against Italy, Muscat noted that while the controversial practice was found to be "in its opinion" against international law, "the court did not offer a solution either."

Pushbacks suspend a person's international right to claim asylum in a country of refuge, by physically barring their entry into a country and transporting them back to the country they have left.

Muscat has been unclear so far about when he will employ pushbacks.

"We are sending clear signals and it's a day-to-day development. This is our policy: being clear that we are not excluding pushbacks."

Dubbing the Prime Minister's declaration as "disappointing", Opposition leader Simon Busuttil defended his past position on the Italy pushbacks, which he never condemned.

"I once said we had to admit that the pushbacks by Italy led to a decrease in arrivals to Malta. Subsequently, this practice was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights," Busuttil said. "One would have expected the Prime Minister to take note of such a statement."

He insisted the PN's policy on migration was "exactly that as shown by the party while in government".

"When in government, the PN never engaged in pushbacks. Indeed, the phenomenon of migration is still ongoing. But this is not a tap you can turn off," he said.

Busuttil admitted that while irregular migration was not something which any political party liked to face, yet one had to protect them and bring them to shore.

"This position doesn't mean that it stopped the influx. It is a yearly phenomenon but when compared to previous years, the figures are reasonable," he said.

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Joecar....So what's the solution if there is any? Do we move Malta to the north? Surely we can't do that? Do we send them back to Libya, after giving them all assistance AND a decent means of transportation?. U can't send them back in an open boat as they could easily drown. And, in that case, do we know whether Libya will let them make port and let them in? Haven't we tried enough to ask EU states to share the immigrants? Can Malta persuade the EU states to make this sharing mandatory? Do we have enough clout to do this? Would we succeed if we threaten to resort to vetoing on unrelated matters? Would it not be worse for us to use this threat? Wld we get more states on our side? And if we succeed, wouldn't this be the perfect recipe to encourage the arrival of more immigrants to Malta, knowing that they will be guaranteed a passage to mainland Europe, which is where they want to go?
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IL-POPLU MALTI MIEGHEK U WARAJK! Ghal interessi tieghu u ghal future ta' Malta li qieghed taghmel u taghmel BIL-QALB u konvinzjoni!
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I agree that push-backs are not the optimum strategy. That would be for all member states to share the burden. But this cannot be left to voluntary decisions. I note that, whilst our government is being criticized by our own N.G.O.s, they have no criticism for the other member states who are also refusing to take the migrants. After all, these poor people want to reach the mainland and only use Malta as a stepping-stone. The other member states find our position at the center of the Mediterranean very convenient to shirk their responsibility. This situation is leading many of our countrymen and 'women to question the wisdom of our decision to join the union in the first place. After all, the union was supposed to have been founded on the principle of solidarity in the first place. To conclude, I agree that we should stand firm and refuse to be trodden on any longer.
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If the Strasbourg court doesn't like it they are free to take all our illegal immigrants to Strasbourg and keep the there at the Judges expense. Support our Government against the EU stance on illegal immigration. This is a national issue which does not consider whether you are a PL, PN, AD supporter or does not support any political party. Go sign this petition and encourage your friends to do the same. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/314/182/985/
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Regarding illegal immigration, Simonpn said: "This is not a tap you can turn off." So there you have it. Simon is admitting that he absolutely has not solution except to let the tap of illegal immigration run fast and indefinitely. Where is the burden sharing Simon liked so much to talk about?" We now realise that Simon is not a doer but an observer, doing nothing. Trusting him would lead Malta gas down dritt ghal gol-hajt. His lethargy is totally shocking! Arms folded is a very easy exercise. Anybody can do it.
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Joseph Muscat is rattling the EU cage for the simple reason that the EU expects that Malta should shut up and continue to accommodate arrivals of illegal immigrants like it has done for the past decade. But would this change anything for the Maltese who afterall are expected to have the biggest say because they arw the ones who are paying for the extra expenses? It does not seem so. And you have a situation wherein both parties not in government are criticizing PM Joseph Muscat for the simple reason that he is trying to find new ways to get out of this stallmate. If both the PN and AD do not like what JM is proposing they should come out with alternatives that are acceptable to the Maltese in general and that make are workable. Otherwise it does not make sense to criticise for the sake of it. Afterall both parties had their chances to deal with the issue: the PN was in government for 26 years and Arnold Cassola was an Italian MEP but both did little when they had the chance. So let us allow Joseph Muscat to think outside the box to find ways how to relieve Malta of this decade old problem.
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I am not in favour of pushbacks but the EU is morally and ethically obliged to find a solution. Bail outs were given to countries which, by corruptive means, were financially bankrupt. Indirectly, the EU supported such corruptive measures. So why not reward tiny countries like us by, for example, helping in solving the migrants' problem. It is shameful that the opposition, which had always received support from the PL on such matters, is using this to hit back at the government, especially through its media and the shameful statement by one of its brand new MEPs.
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I think we're all missing the wood for the trees. Let's say for argument's sake that it becomes mandatory for EU states to accept irregular immigrants from Malta, instead of being a voluntary act as it is now; wouldn't that encourage more immigrants to come over to Malta knowing full well that their passage to mainland Europe is guaranteed? After all, the immigrants don't want to stay in Malta, but come here because it is the land nearest to Africa.
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Simon Busuttil's lack of foresight is incredible, can he not see that trouble in Egypt mean more problems for Italy and us? The PN's policy on illegal imigrantion was simply not doing anything and saying yes to the EU.
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I AM FOUR SQUARE BEHIND OUR PRIME MINISTER. MALTA CANNOT KEEP ON ADDING TO THE RAPIDLY RISING ISSUES OF RACISM WITH EACH BOATLOAD OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS THAT ARRIVE AND PITCH TENT IN MALTA. MALTA CANNOT SUSTAIN SUCH IMMIGRATION AND 90% OR MORE OF MALTESE ARE FULLY INTEGRATED WITH JOSEPH MUSCAT'S STAND IN THE ISSUE. EACH ADDITIONAL BOATLOAD INCREASES THE TICKING TIME-BOMB WHICH WILL EXPLODE THE MOMENT ONE OR MORE OF THESE IMMIGRANTS DO SOMETHING REALLY STUPID. IT IS NOT A QUESTION OF IF, BUT A QUESTION OF WHEN. FROM A SECURITY POINT OF VIEW HOW DO WE KNOW HOW MANY OF THESE ARE AL QAEDA SLEEPERS WAITING FOR THE SIGNAL TO DO THAT SOMETHING STUPID WITH TRAGIC LOSS OF LIFE ON BOTH SIDES.
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Mr Joseph Muscat PM, knows exactly what he is doing and certainly he needs advice but not from politicians who had the full chance to act on the illegal immigration situation, and although they complained that for Malta the situation was becoming untenable,they failed to come out with any solution or part of, except of kowtowing to Europe. The idea to bring the argument in his dealing with Europe on this problem, that Europe has helped Banks whose managers made a mess of the financial sector trust with billions of euro`s, while procrastinating on man-centred problems, is typical brilliant Muscat thinking. This is a far cry from the mediocrity of the opposition, as opposition, and also while in government
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Do you remember all the PN promises of 'burden sharing'? I'm sure Simon Busuttil can say a thing or two about this PN con.
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In 2012 Italy took 13200 illegal migrants whereas Malta took 1800 illegal migrants. To keep this in perspective with Malta's population of 421000 amend Italy's population of over 63,000000. Italy will have to take 269544 migrants to equal the effect that 1800 migrants have on the. Island, when one takes into account the size of the population of both countries. So when I read that Italy had the biggest number from the 2012 arrivals I had to laugh. I'm not keen to push migrants back, however the Prime Minister have to do something because Malta is taking in much more than its share of the problem. Even if the other countries don't want to work with the size of the population then we can use the actual size of the land.
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Like our forefathers did in the past, we must defend our country by all means. If the E.U. is not going to heed our plight with urgency, then yes, pushbacks are a legitimate solution fullstop.
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According to Simon Busuttil,"It is a yearly phenomenon but when compared to previous years, the figures are reasonable". That is just what the people-smugglers over in Libya want to hear. A couple of push-backs would discourage the hordes of foolhardy adventurers at present waiting to board. I hope Italy does the same too.
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The Prime Minister's first duty is to defend Malta and Malta's interests and to follow the will of the Maltese people.
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Personally I am not in favour of pushbacks but I fully agree with the Prime Minister that the EU must take urgent measures to help us cope with this grave situation. Illegal immigration is gradually becoming a tremendous burden on our country. So now let's see whether the principle of solidarity preached by the EU will be put into action. It will be the EU's test case.
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Very well done Mr. Prime Minister
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NGOs only interests are that more illegals make it to Malta thus safe guarding their well paid jobs. They are a bunch of "I am all right puck you Jack"

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