Updated | Busuttil questions decision to bring in rescued migrants

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil asks why government decided to bring rescued migrants to Malta despite Lampedusa being closest safe port of call.

PN leader Simon Busuttil asked whether the migrants rescued by the AFM on Friday should have been taken to Lampedusa.
PN leader Simon Busuttil asked whether the migrants rescued by the AFM on Friday should have been taken to Lampedusa.

The Nationalist Party today broke its silence on the incident in which tens of migrants lost their lives after a boat capsized in Maltese territorial waters, by pointing out that the government had went against custom and accepted to bring migrants to Malta although it was not the closest safe port of call.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said that the government had taken contradictory stands on migration and asked why did Malta accept to being rescued migrants to Malta when Lampedusa was closer to the area where the incident happened.

However Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that on recieving the first reports on the incident it was not clear whether the incident happened within Malta's search and rescue area  and explained that there was no agreement with Italy on which country will take the migrants.

PN leader Simon Busuttil was replying to a ministerial statement by home affairs Manuel Mallia in which he explained that Italy and Malta have proposed the setting up of a task force at EU level, which is to be followed by a concrete "action plan."

In his statement Mallia insisted that financial aid would not "gag" Malta and the migration problem would only be solved if the EU puts an action plan in place.

Mallia said that Malta would be holding talks with Italy, in which he said the countries will discuss a concrete proposal to address migration at the points of departure.

Pointing out that surveillance was not enough, Mallia said that "measures need to be taken to stop irregular migration," which he said was putting people's lives at risk. Without explaining whether he was referring to Libya or the migrants' countries of origin, Mallia The EU should consider "solutions at the points of departure" in order to prevent tragedies.

Without going into the details of this proposal, Mallia said: "Malta will table a concrete proposal which will offer a feasible solution to the problem. I am convinced that in current circumstances, the implementation of such a proposal is not only desirable but essential."

"Talk will not save lives. We have spoken for a long time, without achieving anything," Mallia said, adding that criminal organisations behind the trafficking of humans in the Mediterranean needed to be stopped. This could be achieved by involving Libya, he added.

"Libya is part of the solution that Europe must seek, and not the problem."

Other measures which the European Commission proposed, include revising the way Frontex operates, however Malta would first need to evaluate what the changes to the surveilence mechanism entailed before taking a position, Mallia said.

"With every day that goes by without the EU taking any concrete action, it will result in the loss of more lives. This is a huge humanitarian crisis and although the financial aid is very important, it will not gag us and induce passiveness. There is the need for an action plan on a European level to address the challenge and this needs to take place immediately."

He added that during an EU council meeting on home affairs held last week, three days before the incident in which tens of migrants dies at sea south of Lampedusa,  the European ministers

In his reply, the Opposition leader proposed a minute of silence to remember the persons who died on Friday, which was solemnly kept by MPs and visitors in the House.

Busuttil said that life is "invaluable" and anything else is secondary when discussing the issue. He added that both sides of the House agreed on the importance of saving lives

Who has the duty of hosting and protecting the persons seeking asylum? What is the government's policy in terms of migration?" Busuttil asked, noting that in three seperate incidents this year, the government took three different stands.

He said that in July, the Labour government proposed the illegal push-back of 45 migrants to Libya, Busuttil said, pointing out that the PN had clearly opposed.   In the second, incident in which a group of migrants were rescued by a privately owned tanker, the government had taken a stand and insisted that the migrants should be returned to Libya.

Busuttil noted that the government was legally correct and the Opposition had in that case, supported the government because it was a correct stand.

However, in reference to last week's incident in which a boat capsized 60 miles south of Lampedusa in Maltese territorial waters and 150 persons were brought to Malta, while 50 others were taken to Lampedusa, Busuttil posed a number of questions.

"With Lampedusa being the closest safe port of call, why where these persons brought to Malta when Lampedusa was closer? What has changed? I am not questioning whether these persons should have been saved, but I am asking why has the government taken three, contradictory stands in just a matter of months."

He added that the PN disagreed that migrants should remain in the country that rescued them and said that the government should stand by the customary policy to refuse to take in migrants unless Malta is the closest safe port of call. 

Busuttil added "What was achieved in last week's council meeting?" and pointed out that the government was not coherent with Malta's withdrawal from Frontex which was motivated by Malta's insistence that migrants should be taken to the closest safe port of call.

He added that the Opposition agreed with the government in its attempts to convince the EU to take concrete action."I hope that in the next council meeting the Prime Minister will not walk out before concrete action is taken by the EU."

Furthermore, Busuttil asked the home affairs minister how many EU countries had promised to receive and relocate refuges from Malta, reminding that under the PN government, EU countries had accepted a total of 700 refugees from Malta. 

Yet, Busuttil hit out at the government's harsh criticism on the EU in which Prime Minister Joseph Muscat repeatedly stated that Malta had been abandoned by the EU.

Busuttil said this attitude was counterproductive and while saying that racism and xenophobia should not be fanned any further he stressed that Malta needs to be "critical but not hostile" to the EU. 

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the at first the government was unsure whether the incident happened in Malta's search and rescue area and explained that there was no agreement with Italy on which country will take the migrants.

Muscat said "I called Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta and we agreed that we should make away with rules and regulations and I shouldered the responsibility and said let us save the people."

The rescue operations were coordinated by the Armed Forces of Malta as protocol requires when an incident happens within Malta's search and rescue area, yet Muscat today said that while the practice was for migrants to be taken to the closest safe port of call, he decided to bring the migrants to Malta out of fear of more deaths.

As an image released by the AFM shows, Lampedusa was 61 miles away from the incident while Malta was 118 miles away. 

He added that he had serious doubts on the validity of the proposal to have a task force and strengthen Frontex, because it was unclear where the rescued people would be taken.

"The EU is just playing for time. It is hoping that disembarkations will reduce in winter, however I also have my doubts on that."

Rebutting Busuttil's criticism on the Salamis incident, Muscat said that he had checked on the state of the migrants who were healthy and in an "air-conditioned" room on the tanker. He added that the ship's captain had gone overboard and Malta stood still and insisted that they would not be accepted in Malta.

Importance of showing united front on migration, PN is trying to score political points however, I must say that the leader of the Opposition has not understood how the country's interests should be defended.

"I will not seek advice from a party which achieved absolutely nothing in nine years and I warn the Opposition that they will have to put up with more of the same positions."

He said that the Dublin Treaty should never have been signed by Malta, saying "It was a cardinal mistake to sign a pact which did not impose a obligatory burden sharing."

He reiterated that if the EU leaders will insist on talking without acting he would voice his disagreement and unlike former government he would not sign or bow down to decisions which are not in Malta's interests.

Muscat also warned that he would not shy away from showing his disagreement on other issues if the need arises, stressing that he "was, is and remains consistent."

In his concluding remarks, Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia repeated that the Opposition leader Simon Busuttil's argument was incorrect because the incident had not taken place in Malta's search and rescue area.




Jien nahseb li Simon ghandu il-boxla politika mhix ikkalibrata tajjeb u qed taghtih reading zbuxlat! Simon hu rigal ghal Joseph Muscat, ghax jghid li jghid; u Simon minflok ma qal 'mea culpa' ghal hnizrijiet li twettqu mill-partit tieghu iridt jilghabha tal-vergni minn fuq! Aktar ma isaqsi mistoqsijiet stupidi biex jghatti xturuhom aktar jinzel l-isfel to the point of no return!
MANIFESTAMENT, Simon Buzullotti mhawwad wahda nobis. MANIFESTAMENT Tilef il-boxla kompletament!
Alfred Theuma
I suggest that the editor employs a proof reader.
Jiena ma qbiltx li dawn kellhom jinġiebu hawm Malta meta l-eqreb port sigur kien dak ta' Lampedusa għax issa inħoloq precedent ikraħ ħafna għall sitwazzjonijiet simili fil future. Izda li jiġi Simon Busuttil jistaqsi u jitlob spjegazzjoni mingħand il-Prim Ministru għala dawn inġiebu Malta, turi kemm dan il-bniedem hu ipokrita'. Meta il-Prim Ministru irrifjuta li imigranti jinġiebu hawnhekk, Simon ħareġ qatta bla ħabel kontra, u issa għax inġiebu hawn, irid sġjegazzjoni għalfejn inġabu hewn.
John Mifsud
I'm with Simon on this one - give the Italians an inch and they'll take a mile.
U Kristu qal lil Xmun, “Int Pietru u fuqek nibni l-Knisja tieghi”. Ahjar tibdel ismek ghaliex qed taghmel l-akbar disunur lil Pietru. Mela meta Joseph ried jaghmel il-pushbacks ghamilt gwerra nuklejari u issa ghaliex gab il-klandestini hawn trid tqajjem gwerra ohra. Ahna ahna jew mahniex????? Int tax x’int taghmel u tghid ? jew it tkaxkira hawditilkom mohkom kompletament. No political goals scored. Joseph 36000 u xmun 0.
I respectfully suggest the Editor to supply Simon with a dictionary so that he can search for the meaning of HYPOCRITE and HYPOCRISY.
The P.M. tried to get some political mileage and bargaining power by bringing those unfortunate victims to Malta. Muscat should show some consistency in dealing with the irregular (not ILLEGAL) migrants.
Ha Ha Ha . Busullottipn is now playing the role of wolf in sheep's clothing. He well knows that the people are four square behind our Prime Minister and so he has embarked on a huge U-turn. Watch his fellow mates on TV and you will easily see it. David Casa the other day said that the motive behind his gathering of signature in Europe was as a support to the Maltese government, That is when he and the whole PN, the avvocatini69pn, Fr Joe Borg, Arnold Cassola, Trikki Trakki and all the pn exponenets were putting to shame our Prime Minister because he said all options were open in respect of these illegal migrants.
Imma kemm hu ta l-affari tieghu dan Xmun, Staqsa lill Dr. Mallia kemm hadu il-pajjizi tal- EU mis 700 emigrant li qalu li se jiehdu. Tajba u tahraq, ghax ma staqsiex lill suiehbu Gonzi jew lilhu n-nifsu. Minn iffirma l-ftehim tad-Dublin Treaty jew issa iz-zokk li ghamlu iridu lill gvern gdid jirrangah. Ha naraw x-se jghid jekk il-pajjizi tal EU jghidu li mas jkunux iridu li jaccettaw emigranti bil-fors u il-Prim Ministru jhabbar xi mizuri horox, se jappogah jew jghidlu le taghmilx hekk ghax se jharsu bl-ikreh lejna. Din diga grat medta Mintoff uza l-veto sa kemm ghaddiet tieghu kemm qalu li se jpoggi lill Malta waheda u kullhadd idur kontrina,spiccaw ghalqu halqom meta ghaddiet tieghu u accettawe dak li ried hu. Dwar dawn l-emigranti xippretenda li noqodu nikkustinjaw minn se jehodom jew kif gara naraw kif naghmlu biex nissolevawhom mill mizerja li qidin fiha. Kun nisrani Simon.
Haven't we been yes-men enough during your party's tenure?
I agree with the Prim mister that he criticize the EU for not helping Malta ,as Malta is honoring obligations towards the EU and we even helped Greece during their financial problems so why the EU is not supporting Malta
With crazy Simon there is no way one can win. He loves hearing himself criticize despite the fact that one day he criticizes the Government for its stand on the illegal migrants, push backs and the refusal to let the ship come into Malta. Then he instructs his people to sweet talk the issue of illegal migrants by calling them irregular migrants, and now because the Government, on humanitarian grounds, accepted to take in these 154 migrants, Simon is at it again, criticizing one more time. Simon is consistent only in his attempts to criticize regardless of whether the subject matter of his criticism is consistent. In short he has become disgustingly consistent with being inconsistent.