Opposition Leader Adrian Delia has urged the government to take in the migrants stranded out at sea, and together to forcefully make Malta’s case to the rest of Europe.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today called on European governments to allow the immediate disembarkation of 507 people recently rescued on the Central Mediterranean who remain stranded at sea. Many are reportedly survivors of appalling abuses in Libya and are from refugee-producing countries. They are in need of humanitarian assistance and some have already expressed an intention to seek international protection.
151 people remain on board the Open Arms boat while 356 people more have been rescued in recent days by the Ocean Viking.
Delia has now weighed in on the situation.
“Malta is a small country. Physically, we’re one of the smallest nations in the world. We cannot, physically, assume the responsibility of larger states when it comes to distribution of displaced people,” Delia said.
“Unfortunately, displaced men, women and children are being used as political pawns – or rather as human pawns. This is totally unacceptable. Whilst we are enjoying the summer vacations – as is our right, men, women and especially children are stranded on rescue boats in the scorching heat of the Mediterranean.”
Political action to do the right thing is lacking, Delia said.
“As leaders, we have a moral obligation to speak out for the most vulnerable and perishing. We need to rise above populism where human lives are concerned and do the right thing. As the Opposition party in Malta, we urge the government to stop the current, inhumane, situation of people waiting, desperately, to be given shelter.”
“That should then be followed with immediate action by EU member states to step in and distribute people accordingly. But first things first – and human beings come first.”
“As Opposition leader, I urge the government to take in the vulnerable people currently stranded on rescue ships. We are willing to help government, politically, to make Malta’s case, forcefully, with our European counterparts. Malta is a small country but with a big heart. Let’s lead by example, rise above populism, and put human lives first and foremost.”
In addition, earlier today Open Arms said it had asked Italy and Malta to evacuate twin babies and their parents from a rescue ship that has 151 migrants on board and nowhere to disembark them. It said that one of the 9-month-old babies has breathing problems.
On Tuesday a juvenile court in Sicily also ruled that Italian authorities violated national law and international conventions by blocking 28 unaccompanied minors from entering Italy. Open Arms made the court ruling available and says the children are suffering “physical and mental distress” after enduring “psychological traumas” in Libyan detention camps.