When migrants are sinking, the decision has to be made: should they die or be saved? - Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that national interest should be balanced against the vital principle of human dignity and that it was an essential part of a democratic society to save people dying at sea 

Joseph Muscat spoke on a number of issues to ONE Radio
Joseph Muscat spoke on a number of issues to ONE Radio

When a boat carrying migrants is sinking, one must take a decision, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Sunday, either let them die or save them. 

On Sunday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was interviewed on ONE Radio. Discussion centred on the ongoing immigration crisis, following a number of developments this past week.

The question of immigration is a constant issue in the minds of many of the Maltese, and the Prime Minister (PM) believed it was important to recognise that the decisions involved in these cases are of the utmost seriousness due to their far-reaching implications.

Muscat expressed that the consideration of the essential factor of national interest must always be balanced against the vital principle of human dignity. He declared that this is an essential part of a democratic society, and it is one of the core principles upheld by the Labour Party.

Such values, in the opinion of Muscat, must be upheld constantly in a consistent manner. He also stated that Malta also has international and legal obligations that must be followed, which were important to secure Malta’s integrity within international society.

Muscat discussed the case regarding the Aquarius vessel, which saved a number of migrants earlier this week after ignoring orders to leave the rescue to the Libyan coastguard. The ship was initially denied entry into Malta and Italy, but was eventually allowed to dock in Malta after a deal was brokered between a number of EU states to share the migrants, none of whom remained in Malta.

Read more: Migrants onboard MV Aquarius to enter Malta as European states agree on sharing responsibility

The PM also detailed that he had several discourses with French President Emmanuel Macron, and it was their shared sentiment that a progressive, long-term, and effective solution was necessary, which did not render Europe utterly restricted, but at the same time did not permit a total free for all.

He expressed that these were matters of life and death, where individuals are in dire situations. Muscat iterated that “we saved 140 persons”, and this was important to him as a democratic socialist but also “as a person”.

The Aquarius was allowed to embark the day after its arrival. The Prime Minister elaborated on the differing legal situations that necessitate preventing the NGO ships from departing at present. He explained this was not a “ban” on NGOs; it was a respect for regulations and procedures.

Read more: Aquarius leaves port as other NGO ships remain blocked

The Prime Minister stressed in particular that there was a need to differentiate between people in dire situations fleeing persecution and terror, and those from stable jurisdictions for economic purposes. In Muscat’s view, the latter should apply to come for work purposes, and if they are accepted they may come, but if they are denied entry they should not.

Regarding this matter, he stated that the persons who had been dwelling at a cow farm in Qormi fell into this latter category. Evidence had shown that they had not come over in dinghies in desperation, but rather flew over from Italy after not finding work there. Muscat said that the carrying out of the raid was necessary, because the situation could not be permitted to remain unchanged.

Read more: Authorities clamp down on farm housing 120 migrants in poor conditions

Muscat also delved into the event that transpired last Thursday regarding a group of migrants who were found by the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) in international waters and refused rescue, preferring instead to continue on their way to Lampedusa. Muscat clarified that it was not the AFM’s duty to save them, the ship was not at risk, and the furthermore the AFM had no right to stop them, because they were in international waters. In this and similar situations, the AFM monitor persons, and here they had offered to rescue them, and following the refusal of the migrants the AFM provided them with some supplies and could do no more. It was clear to Muscat that responsibility was in the hands of the Italians, and that the Maltese had remained in line with international law.

Read more: Migrants refuse AFM assistance, insist on going to Lampedusa, government says

The Prime Minister turned discussion as well to the tragedy that occurred in Genoa on Tuesday when a motorway bridge collapsed. In his opinion, the takeaway from this disaster is the importance of maintenance of a country’s infrastructure, as was recently carried out at the Mistra bridge. He believed it was important for a country to invest in things that might not necessarily show, but are nonetheless essential for maintenance and improvement.

Lastly, Muscat addressed the DBRS report, and was proud that Malta was given “a clean bill of health”. Despite all the criticism Malta has faced, Muscat said, the World Bank has still placed our country in the top 25 of the world.

Read more: DBRS confirms Malta’s credit rating at A

He touched upon the Egrant inquiry, stating that the above is further proof that the allegations are but fabrications, as was shown through the evidence that lay at the heart of the matter that was discovered to have been falsified.

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