For several days, waves upon waves of migrants have been arriving in Malta. During the night of Monday 8 to Tuesday 9 July, a boat transporting 102 migrants – including two babies – was intercepted by the Maltese army.
On Wednesday 10 July, 124 migrants on two inflatable dinghies were rescued after finding themselves in distress about 50 km from the southern coast of Malta. Five migrants had to be taken to hospital by helicopter: one woman was suffering from a fracture and four men from severe dehydration.
These migrants often originate from Sub-Saharan Africa or from the Horn of Africa and take refuge in Libya.
Malta has asked the European Union for assistance in dealing with these waves of migration. Speaking on Al-Jazeera on Wednesday, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat threatened to “consider all options”, including sending the migrants back, even though he went on to state that he would respect his international obligations.
Following this declaration, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, immediately published a warning memo , a aussitôt publié un mémo to Muscat: “in compliance with the EU and international obligations, everybody who arrives in EU territory has the right to seek asylum and to have their situation thoroughly assessed”.
She recalled that: “All operations involving returning citizens must fully respect these obligations and in particular the principal of non-expulsion outlined in EU law and international agreements”.
Moreover, Malmström outlined that the European Commission is ready to increase its “support for Malta if faced with further migration pressure”.
In front of Parliament, the Labour Prime Minister promised to “respect the decision of the European Court”.
Minutes before receiving notification of the European reaction, he declared that he would send back a number of the stowaways, sparing 45 immigrants consisting of children and their parents, and those who are physically vulnerable.
This announcement shocked the Commissioner, as well as several Maltese humanitarian organisations. Speaking from the Italian island of Lampedusa, former pope François denounced “the world’s indifference” to the plight of the migrants.