Stranded at sea? Bah humbug!
What a complete lack of Yuletide spirit the government has shown towards its fellow man over the last week by flatly refusing to take in two separate groups of migrants rescued on the high seas. This comes in the same week during which the country published its latest list of millionaires and billionaires who have purchased Maltese, and European, citizenship for a consideration of cold hard cash.
But it takes a cold, hard heart to embrace one group so willingly and to shun another so willingly depending on their material worth is an abhorrent concept not only at this time of the year but at any time of the year and there is something wrong with a society that accepts such actions as normal.
A Spanish aid boat operated by the nonprofit group Proactiva Open Arms carrying over 300 migrants rescued at sea has now arrived in Spain, putting an end to a week-long journey across the western Mediterranean.
The boat, operated by the non-profit group Proactiva Open Arms, docked at the Spanish port of Algeciras, and had to travel to Spain after Malta refused it permission to dock and Italy and other countries also refused to help. Spain’s Foreign Ministry said Malta denied the aid boat, with migrants of 19 different nationalities aboard, permission to dock and the boat’s calls to Italy and France reportedly went unanswered. The Maltese government can hide behinds legal arguments ad infinitum but the fact of the matter is that it is the humanitarian spirit that counts here, not the technocratic drivel and the legalese.
It is not just that there are a lot of people out there in this country that would want to see such a humanitarian spirit demonstrated in their name; many, we are sure, feel quite the opposite, but the government could have very well seized this opportunity as a chance to instruct, to lead by example and to even use the Christmas spirit as an excuse. That, many would say, would show weakness as Malta, Italy and other Mediterranean states continue to arm wrestle over responsibilities for migrants rescued at sea. We, however, beg to differ. Showing humanitarianism is a demonstration of strength that will also earn the country kudos and a slightly better hand to play around the negotiating table, if one were to wax cynical about such matters.
The government has been all but silent on the two requests, save for last Saturday having stated that it had airlifted a mother and newborn baby to safety for medical attention.
And it also comes at Christmastime. As pointed by the Bishops of Malta and Gozo yesterday, the situation over the last few days with the people left onboard the Open Arms and those still – at the time of going to print – on board another rescue vessel refused by Malta, the Sea Watch 3, present an invitation to express solidarity in a concrete manner. They said it is a matter of great concern that Malta and Europe at large are refusing to offer shelter and assistance.
The Sea Watch 3 and its 32 rescued migrants is, in fact, still without a port and it would be a noble gesture indeed if Malta were to offer them and the ship’s crew safe haven for the New Year rather than leaving them in political limbo on the high seas.
These most recent episodes, showing our refusal to accept stranded migrants, is also somewhat tone-deaf coming as it does in the same month in which Malta signed up for the United Nation’s Global Compact on Migration with no small amount of fanfare.
That compact is not legally binding and a core guiding principle of the final text explicitly affirms the sovereign right of states to determine their national migration policy and their prerogative to govern migration within their jurisdiction in accordance with international law.
But wouldn’t it be great if we were to show a little humanitarian initiative, to lead the way as it were, without having to twist the arms of fellow EU leaders into lending a helping hand, and just show some of those people stranded at sea a little Christian compassion at this special time of the year?