While the government has been pulling out all the diplomatic stops to find a burden-sharing solution to the migration phenomenon, it appears reticent to use its power of veto at the EU negotiating table to force a solution, at least for now.
Asked if it would be willing to employ its veto power at the next European Council meeting to force at least a show of solidarity among EU member states after the Sea Watch and Sea Eye standoffs that saw close to 50 migrants stranded aboard rescue vessels for close to three weeks over the Christmas period, an incident that gripped Europe’s attention, the government was non-committal.
A spokesperson from the Office of the Prime Minister told this newspaper, that: “Our country will continue taking a leadership role for the European Union to understand the concerns, provide the necessary assistance and send the needed political, legal and moral signs of true solidarity.”
The spokesperson stressed that, in future incidents, the government will “keep insisting on the observance of international laws and maritime conventions while using strong persuasion on the principles of safety of life and national security.
“Malta does its duty every time difficult situations arise in waters which are under its responsibility.
“Likewise, when other countries have the legal competence and obligation to rescue people in danger, they must fulfil their responsibilities.”
On Wednesday, the 49 migrants who had been stranded on the two migrant rescue ships respectively since 22 and 29 December were permitted to disembark in Malta only after eight EU countries agreed on their relocation following a deal brokered between Malta, Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy.
But in the meantime, the government appears to be making operations as difficult as possible for migrant rescue ships, with humanitarian NGO Sea-Eye, which runs the Prof Albrecht Penck rescue ship, saying yesterday that while the asylum seekers it had on board its vessel a few days ago were allowed to disembark in Malta, a crew exchange for the vessel itself was denied.
Sea-Eye said that the use of state power to take such measures to prevent aid agencies from saving human lives reveals Malta’s political course.
“Premier Joseph Muscat has kept the crews of Professor Albrecht Penck and Sea-Watch 3 for weeks as political hostages to put pressure on the other EU member states,” the NGO said, highlighting how the vessels had been kept out at sea and not allowed to dock in Malta for weeks.
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