Sunday

5th Jul 2020

Three EU states willing to help Malta 'tourism boat' migrants

  • Captain Morgan cruise boats were being used to keep migrants offshore. (Photo from 2008) (Photo: Pepino)

Luxembourg, France and Portugal are willing to take in some of the recently-disembarked migrants in Malta, said the European Commission.

"We have three member states and we very much commend them of course. We also encourage other member states to equally show their support," a European Commission spokesperson told reporters on Monday (8 June).

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It is not yet clear how many each country will transfer from Malta, in a move also known as "relocation" in EU parlance.

Malta had over the weekend allowed some 425 people to land. All had been stranded on four Maltese tourist-seeing boats anchored several nautical miles off the coast.

Some had spent over a month on the boats, which are designed for day trips.

Malta had initially refused to allow them to disembark because of the pandemic caused by Covid-19, claiming its ports were unsafe.

But with restrictions easing and tensions mounting on at least one of the vessels, the government changed its mind.

"The government isn't ready to endanger lives of both the migrants and the crew, due the lack of solidarity shown by European Union member states in terms of relocation," said the Maltese government, in an emailed press statement.

Malta had issued similar statements last month when its foreign minster demanded greater solidarity from other EU states, noting a larger in-take of migrant arrivals fleeing Libya.

The European Commission has been coordinating such stand-offs with member states since January of 2019 - as part of a long-standing issue on migration the European Union has so far failed to resolve.

The commission wants a more permanent solution, which will be rolled out along with its yet to be published wider pact on migration and asylum.

Although no specific date has been given, the commission had previously stated it hopes the pact will be published at summer's start.

Libya and Malta twin centres

The issue follows plans made late May by Malta and Libya's internationally-recognised government in Tripoli to set up two coordination centres in the respective capitals to prevent migrants from leaving the war-torn country.

The centres will be financed by Malta and staffed by six officials, divided between Valletta and Tripoli.

Signed between Malta's prime minister Robert Abela and Fayez al-Sarraj of Libya's Government of National Accord, the pact is set for launch at the start of July.

Malta has refused to take part in the EU's naval operation Irini, which aims to curtail the supply of weapons to Libya.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) relies heavily on Turkey's military prowess in the fight against the Russian-backed warlord Khalifa Haftar.

In return, Turkey is seeking to expand its territorial claims in the eastern Mediterranean and access to natural gas deposits.

The two sides signed a pact last November allowing Ankara to create a disputed maritime corridor that cuts through zones also claimed by Greece and Cyprus.

EU Commission seeks help as hundreds stuck off Malta coast

Hundreds of people who fled Libya have been stuck off the Maltese coast as the government in Valletta refuses to allow them to disembark. The European Commission is demanding EU states step in to help relocate them.

New EU migration pact set for start of summer

The new EU pact on migration is set for publication sometime in June. Final tweaks are still underway as commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johansson says she remains cautiously optimistic on finding a solution to the most pressing issues.

Opinion

EU silence on sickening scenes at Croatian border

If the European Commission is seriously committed to its fundamental values, it is time to put words into practice and condemns unlawful returns and violence at its external borders and demands perpetrators of such illegal acts are held to account.

EU asylum applications rise for first time since 2015 wave

EU commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johansson admitted on Thursday that the latest European asylum report reveals a need to better manage migration. In all, Cyprus, France, Greece, Malta and Spain received more asylum applicants last year than in 2015.

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