Busuttil hits out at 'hypocrisy' on immigration control

Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil denounced the 'hypocrisy on immigration' by those who criticised action against illegal immigration but then remained silent on who should carry the responsibility for migrants.

Busuttil was intervening in a Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) emergency debate held last week in the European Parliament to discuss reports that Libya would repatriate some 400 Eritrean migrants back to their country after some of them had allegedly been repelled by Italy.

The debate was requested by the Green, Communist and Socialist groups in Parliament to denounce the agreement between Libya and Italy which led to a dramatic reduction in the number of migrants leaving Libyan shores this year.

The new Director General of the European Commission's Home Affairs department, Stefano Manservisi, was summoned to participate in the debate in order to reply to MEPs. Intervening during the debate, MEP Simon Busuttil said that Libya had a point when it stated that it had no ambition of becoming a border guard to protect Europe's southern maritime's border. He therefore questioned the Commission on what it was doing to help Libya so that, in turn, Libya could cooperate with Europe.

Busuttil also asked what were Commission President Barroso and Commissioner Malmstrom waiting for to go to Tripoli.

On the criticism of bilateral agreements with Libya, Busuttil said that till now these agreements had proved to be the only effective measure to counter irregular immigration because they had led to a significant reduction in the number of arrivals. Moreover they had saved hundreds of lives by preventing prospective irregular migrants from making the dangerous sea crossing in the first place.

Busuttil cautioned against the trap of hypocrisy those some risked falling into by criticising bilateral agreements with Libya but at the same time remaining silent when it comes to sharing of responsibilities. "Those who criticise these agreements." Busuttil said, "have on reply when we ask them the question who is going to shoulder the responsibility to take them. They want migrants to freely cross into Europe but then expect the Southern countries like Spain, Italy, Greece and Malta to take them. This is not an option."

Replying to interventions, Mr Manservisi said that Libya had agreed not to repatriate any of the Eritreans in question and that the Commission was very keen to include migration in the ongoing talks on a framework cooperation agreement with Libya. He said that Commissioner Malmstrom would be visiting Tripoli in October and that he himself would be visiting even before.

On Libya's agreement with Italy, Manservisi said that the Commission preferred a European rather than a bilateral agreement. However, this bilateral agreement had proved to be efficient because illegal migraiton had been stopped. He said that the Commission had been notified with the agreement and that it found it to be "perfectly in conformity with EU law".

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