Malta Independent

It won’t be easy, but prevention may be better


So at long last, the government seems to have come round to what had been pointed out by this paper and by others: the number of penniless migrants flocking to Malta with just a temporary Italian ID card, most of who later find no work and live in terrible conditions like at the Mriehel cow farm.

Speaking on the usual interview to One News on Sunday, Prime Minister Muscat said the government is trying to find a way of sending these migrants back to Italy.

The majority of migrants found living in a cow farm in Qormi are not legally allowed to work in Malta, with a majority having entered the country by air through Italy, Muscat said.

Muscat explained that while the migrants were granted status as asylum seekers or given some form of protection in Italy, they were only able to travel to Malta and not actually seek employment in the country.

“They did not arrive by sea. This is not true. They arrived with bags holding airplane tags from particular areas in Italy. They had arrived in Italy, were not able to find work in Italy, so they came to Malta,” he said. “We will now have to work to send these

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individual­s back to Italy,” he continued.

Here the Schengen rules come into play. While undoubtedl­y many Maltese would dearly love to send these people back to Italy and so land an imaginary double punch on the chin to Matteo Salvini to reply all that he has been saying about Malta, the actual practicali­ty of doing this sort of push-back may not be actually allowed by the Schengen rules. The government must study the rules and start testing the waters.

Meanwhile we may all enjoy the clear discomfitu­re that Salvini’s government finds itself in. After all the posturing of the past hours, the Italian coast guard ship Diciotti made for Pozzallo harbour to land the 171 migrants it had been carrying around for the past days as Salvini pressured the Maltese government to take them in and Minister Toninelli said Malta must be reported to the EU. Now somehow the Italian government has had to take the migrants in. According to La Repubblica yesterday, Salvini told his fellow minister it might have been wrong to intervene in Maltese waters and Toninelli defended the coast guards saying they were obliged to come to the aid of those who risked drowning.

According to Il Giornale, Salvini still would not accept that this U-turn was a sign of weakness and still threatened to take the migrants back to Libya unless the EU came to Italy’s help. He then added his usual attack on Malta and said the Maltese are very unreliable but he still will check the Maltese affirmatio­n that an Italian ship entered Maltese waters.

Jokes apart, we still suggest that maybe better than rounding up the migrants in Malta would be to somehow prevent them from coming to Malta in the first place. Here again, the Schengen rules maybe impede strict checking at the Maltese border but surely Malta has the right to stop those who have an Italian ID to travel but not to work and to stop such people from boarding the planes or send them back as soon as they land. It is about time Malta began to stand up for its rights when it has taken so much abuse from Salvini and his colleagues without sending back those migrants who should not be here in the first place.

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