Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said today that Malta will encourage the new Libyan provisional government to sign international conventions on immigration, because that would send a strong signal to the international community that a new Libya has emerged.

Dr Gonzi was speaking at a Times to Debate conference being held this morning at the InterContinental. 

Dr Gonzi said Malta had been at the forefront of international efforts to tackle the problem of immigration.

He had personally raised the issue with the most senior officials of the Libyan National Transitional Council such as Mahmoud Jibril, pointing out that this is a priority for Malta.

Priorities on the ground did not allow Dr Jibril to discuss this issue at this point in time but the issue would be tackled further.

Dr Gonzi said Malta never ignored people in distress, despite being criticised from certain quarters.

"We were even criticised for saving the life of a boatload of people after the Italians failed to act", he said. 

Malta, Dr Gonzi said, was a signatory of international conventions and it would honour its legal and moral obligations. If people were in danger of drowning, they would be saved, and the issue was handled afterwards. 

He insisted, however, that transit countries, including Libya, needed to have in place  instruments and procedures to be able to handle these issues and stop people risking their lives.  

Tthe NTC official responsible for Transport, Mohammed Sayeh, said the issue of immigrants was used by Muammar Gaddafi.

Henceforth, one would see how the flow of immigrants towards Europe would be minimised. Col Gaddafi encouraged Africans to make the crossing across the Mediterranean as immigrants, he said. 

"We have fought for human rights, to live as humans in the 21st century, and we will therefore sign the relevant conventions," Mr Sayeh said.


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