A large number of Maltese and foreign academics have issued a joint statement calling on EU member states to rescue migrants in distress and assume shared responsibility for them.
"The practice of leaving boats in distress and relinquishing all responsibility has become the norm," the 335 academics said.
"Whilst we appreciate the particular challenges individual Member States are facing during these challenging times, the situation neither justifies nor excuses the violation of human rights."
"The decision to close ports is unlawful. The absence of solidarity between the Member States in meeting their collective moral and legal obligations is reprehensible."
They therefore called on the European Union and its member states to immediately open the ports for safe disembarkation, and to assume shared responsibility for refugees and migrants saved at sea.
"Urgent action is required in order to avoid unnecessary loss of life," they insisted.
Academic David Zammit also organised an online petition addressed to Prime Minister Robert Abela. The petition, titled 'Save the drowning asylum seekers now!', had been signed almost 3,600 times by Tuesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the dean of the Faculty of Education, Colin Calleja, also countered statements by Education Minister Owen Bonnici on the issue.
"I cannot condone the government’s decision to close Malta’s ports, nor subscribe to the rationale behind it," he wrote in a statement.
"Minister Bonnici called the decision “correct” on grounds that Malta’s resources are being deployed to fight the Coronavirus pandemic. The statement is factually incorrect and, even though I am sure this was not Minister Bonnici’s intention, it will likely funnel ignorance and misconceptions about the matter," he said.
"Indeed, if the country is deploying its resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, this should constitute an additional motive to support the international NGOs who have taken upon themselves the responsibility to help these victims of injustice at sea, and provide them with all the assistance required to carry out their mission. Instead these are being vilified and discredited."
Calleja said the decision reinforces the widespread but mistaken impression that this pandemic has been imported by these poorest of the poor, and not that it has spread as a result of the global economy and globalized lifestyle which has benefitted mostly this part of the world, and of whom third world immigrants are the ultimate victims.
Moreover, it fosters the wrong impression that once allowed in Malta, these immigrants (and immigrants in general) are immediately released in the community, or placed in Open Centers where they can have access to society at large. For once detention complexes would serve a good purpose; as centers where these immigrants are quarantined, vetted and treated if need be.
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