The tourism authority is organising repatriation flights for students from Italy, Germany, Spain and France who are stuck in Malta after the government closed English language schools on Wednesday.

It is not yet clear who will foot the bill, when the students will be repatriated and whether this applies to quarantined students who test negative to COVID.

A spokesperson for the Malta Tourism Authority told Times of Malta on Friday that the authority was in the process of organising the flights.

Questions have been sent to the Health Ministry for further clarification. 

'120 children kidnapped'

The news comes one day after an Italian MP claimed that children as young as 10 were being locked up in quarantine by Maltese authorities without any adult supervision and being denied access to their parents.

Sara Cunial told Italy’s chamber of deputies that she had information that 120 Italian children aged between 10 and 16 are currently “kidnapped” in Malta, with little regard for their physical or mental wellbeing. 

“Some have been tested, others have not. They have all been locked up together, positive and not, without any form of human comfort,” Cunial said, reading from a letter she said she had received from one of the children’s desperate mothers.  

Cunial has been an Italian MP since 2018. She is a renowned COVID-19 and vaccination sceptic who has also spoken publicly about her belief in various conspiracy theories involving 5G and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

The children were in Malta for a study holiday, she said. Many of Malta’s current COVID-19 cases have been linked to clusters in language schools, which were temporarily shut down as of Wednesday.

Small bottle of water and sandwich a day

Cunial continued: “They are locked up in a so-called COVID hotel with a small bottle of water a day and a sandwich, denied effective medical care but most importantly of adult supervision.”

“They are being denied a hug of a parent because Maltese authorities are rigorously enforcing COVID protocols at any cost, including respect for these minors’ fundamental human rights,” the MP continued.

In her letter to Cunial, the child’s mother claimed that she went to Malta after receiving an email informing her that her child was in quarantine, but could only see them “through a window”.

“These children have been left to their own devices, without anyone assuming responsibility for their care,” the mother claimed.

She said Italy’s foreign affairs ministry had been of no help and had told her “you should not have sent your child there on holiday”.

Cunial, her voice breaking, went on to demand the immediate intervention of the Italian government to repatriate the children, saying that another 800 Italian children were being held in “identical” conditions in Dubai.

Last week, Maltese health authorities announced a ban on unvaccinated travelers and shut down English language schools after a spike in virus cases. New travel rules in place also require the unvaccinated hoping to retrurn to Malta to quarantine for two weeks. 

The Federation of English Language Teaching Organisations said the unilateral decision taken by authorities was disproportionate and that the industry was being unfairly singled out.

“While the abrupt, forced closure of the sector has set the Language Schools into complete panic and disarray, FELTOM insists that it is the jobs of the approximate 2,000 direct employees that must take priority without delay,” it said in a statement yesterday.

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