Let’s assume that the Government’s move to return to Libya the immigrants who had the misfortune to land in Malta on a boat is nothing more than posturing to put pressure on the EU.
Let’s assume that Joseph Muscat is using tough language to impress the disturbingly high number of Maltese who would rather not provide any assistance to asylum seekers.
The fact is that in just 120 days as Prime Minister, Dr Muscat has driven himself into a very dangerous corner both domestically and internationally on a delicate subject.
Dr Muscat has also declared he is willing to use Malta’s veto on unrelated EU measures to make sure the EU listens to our demands, seemingly forgetting that Mintoffian politics died long before the man who championed them in another era, another world.
Malta prides itself on being a true democracy. But that does not mean that it deserves a Government that panders to the first sound of populist demands; especially when those demands so wantonly trample upon the interests of human beings; especially when those demands are for an act that is illegal .
Dr Muscat is doing what no serious politician should ever do – beat his chest before negotiating or talking to his neighbours to build alliances.
Unlike previous years, we do not even have an immigration crisis. And much as we like to think otherwise, we are hardly the only country in Europe with an immigration problem.
It is no secret that the EU has failed to deliver a workable immigration strategy, but that should be no excuse for our new government to turn this country into a pariah at EU level.
This can have severe repercussions for any country, let alone a small state which has benefitted enormously as a result of the membership which Dr Muscat had once opposed. Talking tough with politicians can be very necessary but breaking international conventions and potentially risking the lives of people who are fleeing danger is criminal.
It is sad that our Government has taken this threat to new heights barely 24 hours after Pope Francis visited Lampedusa and thanked the islanders for taking migrants in and setting an example of solidarity to a selfish society sliding into the globalisations of indifference.
Instead of posing for photo opportunities with the Pope, our Prime Minister would do better to listen to what he had to say. So should all those church-goers who support Dr Muscat's stand.
However, it is disappointing our bishops have been much more cautious than him when it comes to expressing themselves upon a subject that goes to the very heart of the human rights that the Church – and we as a nation – profess to cherish. They should stand up and be counted.
Dr Muscat has perhaps failed to realise that Libya remains in a state of unrest. After all, VIPs on official visits to Tripoli are not often shown the way sub-Saharan Africans are still being exploited, arrested and detained indefinitely.
Let’s not forget that in October 2002, the Maltese government deported 220 Eritrean migrants. Upon their return to Asmara, they were rounded up and imprisoned, suffering inhumane treatment and systematic torture, according to Amnesty International.
Governments have a duty to consider each claim to asylum on its merits, not automatically push them back. This is a legal as well as moral obligation. The Maltese government was not willing to do this yesterday.
It is clear that Dr Muscat is adopting such reprehensible tactics because a vocal majority is behind him. They, and the rest of us, will live to regret it.
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