Muscat on CNN: Only securitisation of Libya can stop migrants’ deaths

Human smugglers could have netted anything between $1 million and $5 million if 900 people were on board • Italian undersecretary Sandro Gozi says Italo-Malta collaboration ‘an example of EU burden-sharing’

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
Italian under-secretary says Italy, Malta collaboration 'example of burden sharing'

Securitisation of the Libyan coasts is key to stop the perishing of thousands of lives as they cross the Mediterranean sea in the hope of reaching Europe, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

Muscat, currently in Rome meeting with Italian premier Matteo Renzi, reiterated his strong appeal that these tragedies will only be stopped – as a short-term solution – if a government of national unity in Libya is formed, giving the international community the legitimacy to help with the surveillance of the Libya coasts.

“If it is true that 900 people were on one boat, it means that smugglers could have netted anything between $1 million and $5 million … this is the kind of criminal racket we are talking about,” Muscat told CNN.

Muscat flew to Italy earlier on Monday, on invitation of the Italian Premier. As the two will discuss the way forward with regard to the Mediterranean’s migration issue – also calling for an extraordinary EU summit – the EU’s foreign ministers are expected to discuss how to avert such disasters in the future, including how to deal with conflict-ridden Libya, which has become a major gateway for smugglers ferrying illegal migrants to Europe.

The Maltese Prime Minister said Italy and Malta have been doing their duty in saving lives at seas for years. But the two on their own can’t keep making it forever.

Calling for the securitisation of Libya, Muscat said the grim reality was that hundreds of lives are lost at sea every week, but no one talks about that. “Some 400 people died five days ago and no one is saying how this will continue happening week after week," he said.

Muscat reiterated that a government of national unity in Libya would allow the international community to help in the securitisation of Libya’s coasts. Conceding that the UN was registering progress in the talks among the different Libyan factions, Muscat said the securitisation of Libya must be done in the coming weeks.

The Italian prime minister, who hasn’t excluded the possibility of targeting the human smugglers, has categorically stated his opposition to a direct intervention in Libya.

France admitted that it hadn’t risen to the occasion while calling for an increase in the surveillance of the Mediterranean.

Speaking on RaiNews 24, Italian under-secretary for EU affairs Sandro Gozi said the Italo-Maltese collaboration was an example of EU burden-sharing.

“Malta is showing the rest of the world what burden-sharing is all about. An important part of the operation, Malta took in the corpses that were recovered in this operation. It is not only present around the EU table placing migration high on the agenda, but it is also concretely participating in sharing the burden,” Gozi said.

He said that the collaboration shown between Malta and Italy should be adopted by other member states.