Malta tells Italian deputy PM to ‘check his facts’ on stranded migrant ships

Rather than make statements against Malta and European solidarity, the government suggested Italy participate in the relocation arrangement being coordinated

The Maltese goverment has rejected claims by the Italian deputy prime minister, that it had turned its back on the rescued migrants
The Maltese goverment has rejected claims by the Italian deputy prime minister, that it had turned its back on the rescued migrants

The Maltese government has pushed back against claims by Italian deputy prime minister Luigi di Maio that Malta turned its back on migrants who have been stranded at sea for over two weeks.

“Two ships at the borders of Europe. Yet again, only Italy is called upon to act. Malta does not dock the ships despite being in their territorial waters a mile from the coast,” Di Maio wrote in Facebook post.

“All of Europe doesn’t care. We can’t continue giving in to this blackmail. But for me, no child and mother can continue to be held hostage by the selfishness of European states.” 

In a statement issued on Friday evening, the government reminded Di Maio that the migrants had been rescued in an area that was outside Malta’s search and rescue region.

“The rescue was made closer to Italy than to Malta and while the NGO did request Italy to provide a safe port at which to disembark the rescued migrants, Italy refused to allocate a safe port, which is why the NGO vessel was forced to sail away from the point of rescue and to seek refuge within Maltese territorial waters,” the government said.

It emphasised that Italy had closed its ports to all NGOs as well as to other rescues where Italy was “bound to disembark in accordance with international law”.

“The government of Malta recommends that the Italian deputy prime minister check his facts before drafting such public statements, and refrain from making such statements in the future.”

It added that Di Maio was well aware that the European Commission is currently coordinating a voluntary reallocation programme for around 300 rescued migrants.

“Rather than make such statements against Malta and European solidarity,m Italy should participate in the reallocation currently being coordinated.”  

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