Prime Minister: Delia went from far-right talk to suggesting Malta should become migrants centre

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that while human life always came first, he would never accept that Malta become a migrant-saving centre in the Mediterranean

Joseph Muscat emphasised he would never accept that Malta become a centre for migrants in the Mediterranean
Joseph Muscat emphasised he would never accept that Malta become a centre for migrants in the Mediterranean

The Opposition leader was contradicting himself when he first made far-right talk about dealing with migrations, but a week later went to the other extreme and said Malta should become a centre for saving migrants, Joseph Muscat said Sunday.

The Prime Minister emphasised that while the saving of human life came above all else, he would never accept that Malta become any kind of migration centre in Europe.

Speaking during an interview on One Radio, Muscat made known his bewilderment at how Adrian Delia could have last Sunday made a speech where he said foreigners were posing a threat to Maltese identity and values, but then seemed to have changed his mind, and yesterday suggested that Malta become a centre where all migrants could be brought to, pending decisions on where they should be sent.

“The Opposition is being inconsistent,” Muscat said, “Delia went from one extreme to the the other.”

“Human life comes first, but we will not become a place where everyone can leave their problems,” he stressed.

He said that in cases such as that of the Diciotti migrant boat last month, he would not allow anyone to say  Malta was breaking the law, when it was in fact correctly following international rules which laid out that a sea vessel has a right of passage in international water, and cannot be stopped if it does not request any assistance and makes known its intention to keep passing through.

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“As a government, we are consistent in our policies and our attitude - I have been saying what I am saying today from the outset. We are operating in a correct manner - we save lives when needed, we are sharing the burden with other countries, and we expect that there are rules which everyone, including the NGOs, abide by,” he underlined, “But when it comes to the interests of our country, we will remain firm.”

Economy cannot be slowed down

Asked by the interviewer about the views of certain people that Malta’s pace of economic growth ought to be slowed down to address problems such as the demand for more workers, Muscat said this notion was simply a non-starter

“You cannot try to slow down the economy, as this will mean that the weakest in society end up suffering the most,” he said, “What is important is managing growth and ensuring that everyone benefits from the wealth generated."

"We do not believe in trickle-down economics, or in taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Our system uses a third way - we expand the economy and then distribute its fruits. The whole issue is about distributing wealth in a equal manner.”

Regarding the issue of property prices, Muscat said that, to address the problem, the departure point had to be to recognise that 80% of the Maltese are homeowners.

“Given this high rate of property ownership, when the price of property goes up, this automatically means thousands of families have become more wealthy,” he highlighted, “But our job is to ensure that there are schemes to help the remaining 20%. The government had doubled the subsidy on rent, but this wasn’t enough, and we are now finding new tools to help address the problem.”

Touching on the nomination of former PN parliamentary secretary George Hyzler as Commissioner for Public Standards, he said that the government had accepted the nomination of a person from the other side of the political spectrum in order to send a signal of “institutional” significance.

The law giving the go-ahead for the appointment of a Commissioner had been enacted in Parliament in March 2017, but nobody had been nominated for the post before now.

“In order to give an institutional sign - that Malta is becoming more open to the European idea that there should be non-government members in the nominations of certain posts - we decided that the first Commissioner for Public Standards should come from the Nationalist Party, because we have nothing to fear,” he asserted, “The idea is to send a strong message that Parliament goes above and beyond the government.”

New health centre in the north

The Prime Minister also touched upon the importance of health centres for alleviating the burden from hospitals, announcing that a new health centre was being planned to service the northern part of Malta.

“We will be issuing a call for a new health centre in the north of the island, which will cater for people in that area, and remove the burden from the Mosta health centre,” he said, also underscoring the need for “major renovation” which the Gzira health centre had.

“A new health centre has also been opened in Kirkop - the first new centre since 1999. This will not only benefit the residents of that town, but will also have a positive ripple effect on other health centres, since they will have to deal with less people,” he added.