PM insists dialogue essential in migration issues, ‘Malta can’t fight with Italy’

Relying on ad hoc solutions for individual cases of migrants rescued by NGO vessels cannot continue indefinitely, but no better option currently exists, Joseph Muscat says

Joseph Muscat was speaking during a recorded interview on One Radio on Sunday
Joseph Muscat was speaking during a recorded interview on One Radio on Sunday

Malta is committed to dialogue and is open to finding a solution when it comes to migration issues, the Prime Minister said.

Joseph Muscat said that Malta and Italy couldn’t afford to end up in a situation where they were fighting about migration issues.

In a recorded interview on One Radio on Sunday, Muscat reiterated that Malta would never allow migrants in its territorial water who found themselves in distress to drown.

Moreover, he said that in dozens of cases, Libyan authorities were intercepting boats which left their shores and were taking them back to Libya.

“This is part of the overall strategy, which we all believe is essential,” the Prime Minister said.

However, Muscat said there were also instances where Malta had endeavoured to find a solution for particular cases of migrants rescued by humanitarian ships, he said.

Muscat referred to the situation last week surrounding the rescue of 55 migrants off the coast of Tunisia by Italian NGO Mediterranea.

He said the Italians had refused to allow the ship to dock at its ports, and had asked Malta if it would take the migrants in instead. Malta had agreed, on the condition that the equivalent number of migrants would then be taken to Italy. Italy had gone on to accept the condition.

“So Malta was part of the solution,” Muscat said, “You cannot be fighting with [Italy], our biggest neighbour. What are we going to do, shoot at each other?”

He noted that, despite the agreement reached with Italy, Mediterranea had still decided to go to Lampedusa instead of Malta.

Muscat said that, in such situations, it was important to look “at the bigger picture”, and that Malta was ready to dialogue to find a solution for the good of the country.

He said, however, that using ad hoc solutions for particular cases couldn’t continue indefinitely, since it “takes a toll” on those involved. “But for now there is no better solution,” he said.

‘People’s quality of life has improved greatly’

The interview also touched on the economy, with Muscat saying that, under his government, “the quality of life of many Maltese has improved greatly.”

“This is reflected in the way people behave and in what they can afford,” he said, “But it doesn’t mean that there still aren’t people who have fallen behind. When you look at the big picture, however, we’ve created a new middle class.”

He said his government had inherited a generation which felt that their children would encounter more difficulties than they had.

“This has been reversed, and parents are again feeling their children will have a better country than the one they had,” Muscat underscored.

PN contradictory on AG law

Touching of the new law to split the Attorney General’s dual role, creating the new position of State Attorney - which was approved in Parliament on Wednesday - Muscat said this was part of a constitutional change “which had long been mentioned, but no government put it into effect.”

On the Opposition having voted against the law, he said this was somewhat contradictory, as while it (the Opposition) had itself insisted that the issue of the AG’s dual roles be addressed quickly, it had also expected that the splitting of the roles form part of a wider reform.

“I cannot understand why the Opposition voted against [the proposal], because they had long wanted them. On the one hand they wanted us to draft the law quickly, and on the other they said that it should have been part of a wider constitutional reform,” he said.