'Malta is fair and expects to be treated fairly' – Prime Minister

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addresses Social Democratic Party conference on refugee policy in Berlin

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addresses Social Democratic Party conference on refugee policy in Berlin
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addresses Social Democratic Party conference on refugee policy in Berlin

Malta wants solidarity if needed and gives solidarity when needed, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said at the Social Democratic Party conference on refugee policy in Berlin.

Muscat explained that given Malta’s fair treatment of the situation, it expected assistance in dealing with excessive migrant influxes when necessary.

“Suffice it to say that I have been receiving regular calls at night by our Armed Forces assisting hundreds of migrants crossing our seas. Just some boat-loads landing in Malta with a few hundreds on board would mean that Malta can be in a critical, if not in an emergency situation in the space of a few days,” he said.

Muscat explained how the European Commission’s plan gave particular importance to strengthening the cooperation with African countries of origin and transit by intensifying dialogue through the existing processes (Rabat and Khartoum processes).

“Malta will continue playing its part by hosting a Summit between the EU and African partners in the coming months. This will be a particularly important event which brings together countries of origin of migrants, as well as countries of transit and destination,” he said.

Muscat also pointed at stabilising Libya as another crucial step in preventing further loss of life at sea.

“That is why it has become even more urgent for the international community to help stabilise Libya by supporting a mediation process to achieve a political agreement around a Government of National Unity.”

He added that the Commission’s proposals were a clear first sign that Europe does not only show solidarity in financial and economic crisis, but that it can also respond when human lives are at risk and when countries struggling to give hope to migrants are in need.

 “This cautiously positive tone, will however need to be reinforced with real action,” Muscat emphasized. “Much more needs to be done if we want to truly achieve a consistent and effective EU migration policy which balances protection and prevention.”

Referring to the most recent tragedy in the Mediterranean, which left some 600 people dead, and presented the retrieval of a mere 24 bodies, Muscat said that images of that heart-breaking funeral had suddenly made the immigration issue a real one.

“Europe and the world, woke up to a reality which Malta, Italy, Spain and Greece among others have experienced for years.”

  “We welcome the mechanism which triggers an emergency response and kicks in a relocation programme, which may be used in case of emergency such as in the case of Italy and Greece,” he said referring to the subsequent plan made by the commission to tackle the disconcerting issue, calling the plan a realisation that countries facing this crisis need effective European solidarity.

“In the proposal, the Commission also notes that it is ready to do the same if other member states – such as Malta – face a sudden influx of migrants. More so because a small island such as Malta, with a population of less than half a million, can see a sudden influx overnight.”

“For many years, as we experienced a considerable influx of migrants, we were one of the few member states arguing for changes in the Dublin regulations and solidarity in a concrete manner,” he said stressing that those calls were often met with indifference.

Muscat admitted that populists might argue that we have carried enough burden over the years and we should refuse the Commission proposals by means of which Malta must now take some refugees, rather than refugees taken from it, however, he stressed that the government was arguing to the contrary.

“It is unfortunate that this proposal did not come when we needed it most but we will take our share to prove that we do not think European solidarity is a concept we advocate when it suits us. Furthermore, if there is a crisis that hits us in the future, we expect the same treatment.”

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