Malta has asked the European Commission to act against people smugglers who send migrants from Bangladesh to Libya for onward passage to Europe, including an airline named 'Cham Wings' involved in the business, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said in parliament.

Replying to questions a day after more than 30 migrants drowned when their boat capsized in rough seas in the Libyan search and rescue zone, the minister insisted that the people traffickers must be stopped. 

He was replying to a question by Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar who asked how long were people to continue to witness migrant tragedies, especially after two shipwrecks off Calabria, Italy and Libya.

The minister said Malta was continuing to insist that people traffickers must be countered and the sea must be more intensively patrolled.

"The first question we as Europeans need to ask ourselves is: how many people need to die before all of us agree to fight the people traffickers?" he said. 

Camilleri said he was concerned that the tragedies off Libya almost did not matter. 

The latest tragedy, he said, was an example which proved that assistance should continue to be given to the Libyan Coast Guard, which in this case could not arrive on time.

Secondly, there should be legal pathways to migration. 

Recently, he added, Malta had asked the European Commission to take direct action over people trafficking from Dhaka in Bangladesh to Libya and on to Europe, in which a private Syrian airline called Cham Wings was involved.

Action was needed in this case, he insisted, pointing out that Bangladeshis were also involved in Sunday's tragedy.

If people trafficking continued to appear to be encouraged by some, such tragedies would unfortunately continue, Camilleri warned.  

The minister also spoke on the recent meeting in Malta of the Med 5 countries and insisted that migrants who did not deserve protection under the law should be sent back to their country of origin.

It was important to build strong and comprehensive agreements with countries of origin with a view to repatriating those who are not eligible for protection.

Similarly, more needed to be done to prevent migrant crossings in the first place. That saved lives.

"The keys for entry to Europe must not be in the hands of the people traffickers," the minister insisted.


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