Malta Scandal: Offloading Maritime Rescue is upon us. In three months it welcomed only one immigrant
While Italy has faced nearly 27,000 migrants arriving since the start of the year, there is Malta, an island in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and North Africa, which received just one migrant in the whole of 2023. The map is from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The figures best illustrate Italy’s isolation: of the 33,982 migrants by sea in the first three months of the year, about 77% landed on our shores. In Spain, separated from Morocco by a few miles of sea, only 3,852 have arrived. And in Greece even less, 3216, yet the Greek ports are surrounded by boats from Turkey, another migrant route, followed by the boat that sank in Kotro. Spain and Greece use harsh tactics to discourage departures. But the real scandal is Malta, where it has welcomed only one immigrant, despite the location and extension of its search and rescue area (“search and rescue”) in the middle of the Central Mediterranean route.
Indeed, Valletta outsourced salvage boats to Italy even in the waters under its jurisdiction, eliminating the problem of migrants, which were unloaded in Italy, in particular in nearby Lampedusa. The NGO ships know the situation well. Their warnings are systematically ignored by the Maltese authorities. Malta is washing its hands, so the problem falls on the Italian coast guard who are forced to manage thousands of arrivals. It may happen that Malta intervenes, but not to save boats full of migrants, but to bring them back, as happened last September 26 with a boat carrying 23 migrants stranded in Maltese waters. The Maltese authorities have assumed responsibility for coordinating rescue operations as required by international standards. But instead of sending a patrol boat, they ordered a passing Panamanian merchant ship to load the migrants and take them to Egypt. Actually opposition. It also happened that Malta indicated Italy as a port of disembarkation.
Shipwrecks in Maltese waters are frequent, the most recent of which was a few days ago: two small boats with migrants from sub-Saharan Africa on board. Between 24 and 25 March, the emergency rescued a boat carrying 78 people. “The boat was in the Sar Maltese area, but Malta – as they say from the emergency – although informed immediately, did not coordinate rescue activities or provide a safe port of disembarkation.” However, no one in Malta (or in Brussels) has demanded the resignation of the Home Minister or an apology from the Maltese Prime Minister. This is what Piantedosi defines as an “attractive factor” for Italy: “Public opinion (in Italy, ed.) involves acceptance of this phenomenon while in other countries, small and not so small, stubborn in all areas between different policies, without opposition.” Malta.
The Maltese government has also moved politically and diplomatically to deport the migrants. And it never signed the amendments to the Saar and Solas agreements, in which the state responsible for the Saar undertook to designate the “place of safety,” that is, the safe place for disembarkation. In 2020, Prime Minister Robert Abella signed a memorandum with Libya to create operational structures aimed at “combating illegal immigration”. While journalistic investigations documented unofficial methods, such as the use of “ghost” fishing boats responsible for intercepting boats and returning them to Libya, and the practice of supplying new engines for boats to allow them to reach Sicily. It is clear that the methods are effective if the result is then 26,832 immigrants (in Italy) to 1.
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