‘Europe must act urgently to stop migrants drowning’ – Maltese MEPs

After shipwreck, Roberta Metsola and Miriam Dalli warn that the EU and European PMs must stop ‘tweeting condolences’ and find concrete solutions to Mediterranean's migration problem

Maltese MEPs Roberta Metsola and Miriam Dalli have urged the EU to take immediate action to prevent more migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean.

Metsola, a Nationalist MEP, described the general mood amongst European parliamentarians as one of “anger and exasperation” at how the EU repeatedly fails to take action when faced with a fresh migrant shipwreck.

“Tweeted condolences are not enough,” Metsola told MaltaToday. “We now expect the EU to come up with concrete solutions, anything that will prevent more deaths and combat human traffickers.”

Around 1,000 migrants are estimated to have drowned in two separate Mediterranean shipwrecks in the past ten days. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi have called for an urgent EU summit to discuss the way forward with regards Mediterranean migration, and EU foreign ministers have met up in Brussels today to discuss the issue.

Dalli, a Labour MEP, admitted that northern European MEPs are “slightly more dis-attached” from the problem than their southern European counterparts, whose countries who have to face it first-hand.

“However, I have recently seen a shift and northern European MEPs are starting to respond too,” she said. “People tend to change their attitudes when they see pictures of the drowned migrants, who at the end of the day are human beings and not just numbers.”

“Northern European MEPs too have now grown concerned at how the international community keeps speaking of the need to take bold action, but at how such talk dies down after a week after the shipwreck.”

She added that such fickleness highlights the need for the EU to take urgent action within a week, before their focus shifts onto a new story.

“The EU will present a new migration agenda in May, but that is too far away when one considers that 1,000 migrants have drowned this past week alone,” Dalli said.

‘European PMs need to get around the table’

Metsola recalled how the European Parliament had come up with a resolution and a set of proposals in 2013, following the death of around 360 migrants in a shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa.

“The Parliament stood up back then and came up with a set of proposals,” Metsola recalled. “However, European governments simply didn’t act and the EU actually scaled down the Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue operation.

“The 28 European Prime Ministers need to get around the table and realize that this is a pan-European problem, and not only a southern European one.”
She warned that the rate of people drowning in the Mediterranean has increased in recent years, that migrant vessels are getting more crowded, and that human smugglers operating in Turkey have started embarking migrants on ships, before abandoning them in the middle of the sea and leaving them to their fate. 

Dalli said that the EU must come up with a migration policy that tackles the migration issue on four different fronts–enhancing its search-and-rescue missions, setting up credible resettlement programmes, clamping down on human trafficking, and working to improve the situations in third countries.

“If such countries are stable and peaceful, then people will not want to flee them,” she said.

More naval assets needed in the Mediterranean - PN

The Nationalist Party calls on every EU Prime Minister and Head of Government to urgently and immediately agree to deploy more naval assets to the Mediterranean to address trafficking networks and save lives at sea, it said in a statement.

“The events of the last few days in the Mediterranean have shown us yet again just how crucial it is for Europe to take a concrete stand on migration and move on from empty statements to real action,” the statement reads.

PN added that they couldn’t allow the people who have died to become just another statistic.

“There is a moral obligation on every EU Prime Minister to act and to act now. We cannot allow the Mediterranean to continue its descent into a cemetery of broken promises, broken hopes and broken lives.”

The statement explained that prime ministers couldn’t bicker about increased pull factors while bodies continued to wash up on our beaches.

“Member States have found the funds, the political will and the assets to practically eradicate piracy off the Somali coast. The same commitment to save lives, boost security, tackle crime networks and address the migration issue should be found with the same vigour.”

The statement showed that in the short term what the PN is calling for is that more assets are deployed in the Mediterranean, to disrupt trafficking networks and to save lives, and as for the medium term, improving stability in Libya is crucial as are legal migration options and helping countries in Africa get back on their feet.

“The Nationalist Party call upon every EU Prime Minister to act now, share responsibility and acknowledge that this is a European challenge that requires a European solution.”

AD says that the EU should not be an accomplice to the deaths of migrants

"For years on end now, we were promised that such tragedies would be curbed, but the promises have proven to be empty words,” Alternattiva Demokratika spokesperson on Civil Rights, Monique Agius said.

“Malta and Italy are doing their part, but the EU cannot sit and wait. We must now pass form the level of discussion to action at a European level. We will support such efforts as long as the human rights of people trying to cross the Mediterranean are protected." 

She added that given that the situation has deteriorated so much in Libya, migrants had no option but to risk such perilous journeys to escape from danger, in search of better future.

“We feel that diplomatic efforts should increase. Even though stability and nation building processes will take their due time, this cannot be done at the expense of human life," Agius said.

She added that whilst AD recognized and thanked all those involved in the search and rescue missions, they believed that such missions should be increased and more funds channeled into them.

“We have to increase our efforts and crack down on human smuggling and trafficking which is already taking place, but this should not go without placing the right structures in intermediate countries with which it would ensure that those entitled to protection are granted protection and safe passage".

AD Chairperson, Arnold Cassola, said that there is a dire need to open dialogue with those countries where migrants originate from.  

“The EU and the international community should set up structures in these countries to allow for Visa applications in the country of origin, thus allowing for legal entries into Europe, rather than the present risky irregular migration.  Such a situation needs to be addressed both with short term and long term goals rather than just paying lip service to the cause."