Prime Minister: Lifeline economic migrants will be sent back to their countries

In Lifeline case, Malta managed to do what EU never had, Joseph Muscat says

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said that all migrants who arrived in Malta on board the Lifeline, whose status is determined to not be that of an asylum seeker, will be sent back to their countries of origin
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said that all migrants who arrived in Malta on board the Lifeline, whose status is determined to not be that of an asylum seeker, will be sent back to their countries of origin

Any of the 233 migrants, who arrived on board the humanitarian ship Lifeline this week, who are not genuine asylum seekers will be sent back to their countries or origin, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat confirmed today.

He however did not elaborate on how this process, which can be significantly complicated due to the lack of diplomatic relations between Malta and Sub-Saharan African countries, would take place.

Speaking during an interview on ONE Radio, Muscat said that in the Lifeline case “tiny Malta” had done what the European Union had never succeeded in doing, when it managed to get the support of eight other member states who agreed to each take a number of migrants.

Muscat said the situation had been come about because the rescue ship had not obeyed orders given to it.

“The only authority which could order the ship to move, from where it had stopped in the sea, was the authority of the flag it was flying - the Netherlands. So we asked the Dutch authorities to request that the Lifeline move, as it was about to trigger a humanitarian crisis,” he said, “But the Netherlands said the ship was not registered there, and that it merely held a certificate showing it was purchased in the country. It was registered as a pleasure craft.”

“An investigation on this is ongoing, but until things are clarified, we were forced to close our ports to all NGO-run ships. And we also cannot let any NGO ships currently in Malta to leave our ports,” he emphasised.

No silver bullet to solve migration “phenomenon”

Calling the global migration situation a “phenomenon”, Muscat said that there was "no silver bullet" which could solve all the issues which this brought with it.

“Anyone who thinks that there is some button which can stop this phenomenon does not know what they are saying,” he remarked, “If a person is fleeing persecution, they need to be given asylum. But then there are economic migrants - people who want to move to find better jobs - and we have the right to send these people back, and that is what we will do. And we will do this in the case of the Lifeline, once all the required processes are concluded.”

“They will be sent back, there’s no problem,” Muscat said.

“What this week put Malta in the news in a positive way was the fact that we had the guts to take steps to solve the situation,” he said.

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