Several MPs from the Five Star Moverment walked out of the Sicilian Assembly on Tuesday as President Marie-Louise Coleiro started her address, in protest over Malta’s stand on migration.
“The decision was taken to protest Malta’s behaviour towards migrants,” a group of M5S MPs were quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA.
“Malta’s actions in the Aquarius incident is unacceptable and MS5 cannot ignore this before the President of Malta,” the MPs said.
“Malta and all of Europe should take note that we are not ready to tolerate their indifference on the delicate subject of human life which often is Sicily’s toll to bear, which commitment it does not renege, but demands maximum collaboration.”
The M5S has 20 of the Assembly’s 70 MPs.
A representative of the Italian league attending the session did not join the walk-out.
The assembly president admonished the MPs and their "bad manners."
In his address, the assembly president praised Malta as a model for Sicily to follow, highlighted common values between the two countries and said both had to collaborate to resolve tensions over migration policy.
“Every country, every government must do its part in this humanitarian effort,” the assembly president said.
He apologised profusely for the walk-out, telling President Coleiro-Preca "please believe me, we Sicilians are not like this!"
"This was meant to be the party of change," he said with reference to M5S. "Perhaps they thought that change also referred to rules and good manners."
Asked on Wednesday about the incident, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat thanked the President of the Sicilian assembly for dissociating with the MP walkout and called for prudence in order not to escalate tensions.
PD slams 'unfriendly welcome'
The boycott was criticised by the Maltese Partit Demokratiku, which denounced the “unfriendly welcome by a few MPs”.
It noted that the MV Aquarius ordeal was the consequence of different obligations tied to the Search and Rescue Convention: while Malta is legally bound by the principle of disembarking rescued migrants in the closest safe haven, Italy follows the post 2006 SAR Convention Amendment, which Malta is not party to. The latter implies that migrants should be disembarked in the country which 'owns' the search and rescue region.
PD noted that Libya is not a safe country, lacks rescue capabilities, and is not signatory to the 1951 Geneva Refugees Convention, implying that irregular migration cannot be returned to Libya.
PD is of the opinion that if Europe really upholds its European value, all member states should all burden share proportionately the problems that both Malta and Italy are facing. It is high time that the plans detailed by EU are implemented.
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