Italy’s Mare Nostrum taking over Malta’s refugee burden

In MaltaToday's print edition today: while Italy's humanitarian mission has meant that almost 21,000 arrivals landed on Italian coasts in 2014 alone, MaltaToday's survey surprisingly shows that migration is the topmost concern for Labour voters at 42.4%, and the second most top concern for PN voters who stand at 17.1%.

In July 2013, Muscat visited Renzi's predecessor Enrico Letta (above) to discuss the two countries' migration pressures.
In July 2013, Muscat visited Renzi's predecessor Enrico Letta (above) to discuss the two countries' migration pressures.

The tragedy off Lampedusa on 3 October 2013 that sparked off the Operation Mare Nostrum has led the Italian government to radically change its rescue policy at sea, and is now taking responsibility for the lives at sea that even fall under the Maltese government’s responsibility.

READ FULL STORY HERE in MaltaToday's print edition ONLINE

Since the tragedy at sea that led to over 400 refugees from Syria and Palestine losing their lives in the Lampedusa shipwreck, the Italian government under prime ministers Enrico Letta and now Matteo Renzi, are no longer engaged in bickering with their Maltese counterparts over who is responsible for saving lives at sea in the Mediterranean.

“The Italian coast guard has been ordered by the Italian government to intervene and collect any boat people that even the Maltese authorities are technically obliged to intervene and collect,” a high government official told MaltaToday.

The new Italian policy has surprised the Maltese government, which was not informed on this change of policy – a far cry from the Italians’ criminalisation of merchant vessels found assisting destitute migrants in distress at sea.

Operation Mare Nostrum includes the use of amphibious ships, unmanned drones and long-range helicopters with infrared equipment, with six navy ships, each with crews of between 80 to 250 men, deployed in October.

The humanitarian mission has meant that almost 21,000 arrivals landed on Italian coasts in 2014 alone, manifesting in the complete absence of migrant arrivals in Malta this year. Yet, despite any visible incident involving migrant arrivals, today’s MaltaToday survey surprisingly shows that migration is the topmost concern for Labour voters at 42.4%, and the second most top concern for PN voters who stand at 17.1%.

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