Muscat: Libya deal addresses people's migration concerns

Prime Minister describes the past week as a ‘historic’ one in which European leaders sought to address the concerns of the people

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addressing party faithful in Safi
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addressing party faithful in Safi

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has shrugged off criticism over the contentious €200 million deal signed between Italy and Libya this week, insisting that the agreement addressed the people's concerns on migration.

Speaking in Safi, a stone's throw away from the detention centre in the village, Muscat said the agreement which Italy reached with Libya, and which the European Union is supporting in an effort to stem the flow of asylum-seekers from the war-torn country, had addressed the concerns of ordinary citizens on migration and its impact.

“We did what they used to say was impossible. We facilitated an agreement between Italy and Libya that even though it won't solve everything, it would nevertheless, help our neighbour to no longer act as a sieve for people who have risked their life in crossing a desert, only to then have to risk their lives to cross the sea and come to Europe, to Malta, to Safi, where they are forgotten,” he continued.

“People were concerned that nobody was listening to them. These are not good families and not racist, but who believe that migrants should be helped if the numbers are not too big," Muscat said as he insisted that doing nothing was not an option.

While Europe had an obligation to help those “who are being bombed” and who are suffering persecution, Muscat said that anyone coming in search a better job needed to pass through official channels.

“The European Union is coming to its senses and working to solve this problem ... Now that we have started making progress we must work on the second part. We must now set up humanitarian corridors for these people. If you deserve to be given refuge, you should be able to get on a plan to start a new life,” he said.

Turning his attention on the newly-announced development of a new 315-room luxury hotel to be built on the former Institute of Tourism Studies site at St George’s Bay, Muscat emphasised that this is further proof of the government’s commitment to creating employment and driving economic growth.

“In the week where everyone thought we were only thinking of international affairs, we got the largest local investment ever seen in Malta. Even better than that, it will be creating 1,500 new jobs,” he said.

According to Muscat, “such a project will be bringing tourists that pay more, and this means that employers will have to pay employees more for their services.” In addition to this, he said that the project will also contribute to developing a better service industry, with better quality jobs.

Muscat said that for the first time, the government had not estimated the value of the land itself. “We got one of the best auditing agencies to estimate the value of the land. They gave a professional estimate, the likes of which the country has never seen.” 

Furthermore, he said that a clause had been introduced to ensure that if the value of the land changes in the future, the government will be entitled to more money. “If today, you can build 100 flats that is the price, but if that changes and you can build 120 flats in the future, you must pay more. This is how we protect the nations assets,” he stressed.

Briefly addressing criticism levelled against him by the opposition some over his visit to a pastizzi shop with four European heads of state, Muscat said that the government had no problem having tea in a small shop, with the people.

“We don’t mind this, we are proud to be the children of workers, we are proud to be rising from humble beginnings and to be lifting the country with us.”

On the announcement this week, that the US fantasy sports giant DraftKings will be basing a part of its operation in Malta, Muscat said that this was part of the government’s vision for a truly cosmopolitan country. “This country is capable of obtaining even better results. It can lift itself from mediocracy, this is a country that is capable of being top of the league.”

Finally, the Prime Minister said that the government would continue to rise above divisive and negative political rhetoric. “Those who have no arguments to make must rely on dividing and provoking their opposition. People understand this, and can see through it,” he said indirectly referring to allegations against minister Chris Cardona that have dominated this week’s news cycles.

“People are capable of deciding in their own homes, that which is right and that which is wrong. They can also feel that some people are genuine and sometimes make mistakes, as well as see that some people are bitter and intentionally being divisive."

"My promise is that over the coming months the government will not descend to this level. We speak on the level of those who have aspirations and who are fed up with the politics of division. We want to speak to those who want to work towards solutions,” he continued.