Prime Minister Joseph Muscat this morning phoned EU Council president Hermann Van Rompuy to give him formal notice that Malta will use its powers to demand solidarity on immigration.

"This is not business as usual," Dr Muscat told the press at the door of Castille this morning following the arrival of almost 300 immigrants.

He said he wanted the same solidarity that the EU showed in the banking crises and other issues.

"This is the Mediterranean crisis," he said, stressing that he would defend the national interest.

Describing the arrivals as "illegal immigrants", Dr Muscat said Malta would be compassionate with the weak but strong with politicians. He said he did not mind being labelled "hard" or "heartless" on the issue.

He said the immigrants were rescued because of the exceptional circumstances where a boat was sinking with women and children on board as well as two people onboard with gunshot wounds. According to intelligence, the shots were fired in Libya after the men escaped from a detention centre.

Dr Muscat did not exclude sending migrants back to Libya in the future.

Mr Van Rompuy will be in Malta on Thursday on a planned visit.

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