If it were the closest port of call, Malta would have accepted migrants - Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that Italy's demands were in breach of international law and that Malta had no responsibility to take in humanitarian ship

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that Malta was merely following international law
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that Malta was merely following international law

Had Malta been the closest port of call, and thus duty-bound to take in the migrants aboard the Aquarius, Malta would not have hesitated to do so, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Sunday.

Speaking during an interview on One Radio, Muscat explained that the decision to deny the request by Italian authorities to take the ship was not an act of “playing tough”, but that the country was simply not responsible for it.

“I made the decision to not accept the migrants because it was not our responsibility and because we were obeying international law,” Muscat said.

“The orders which Italy tried to give us were unacceptable,” he added, explaining that this action could have created the risk of a humanitarian crisis.

Muscat said that if the country were legally obliged to take the migrants – whether it was “just or not” – he would have ordered the ship to anchor in Malta, irrespective of the number of people aboard.

It is unacceptable that another country orders Malta around simply because of its size, Muscat said.

Muscat reiterated that all international organisations as well as the European Commission supported the stand taken by Malta.

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