EU Presidential candidate Martin Schulz this morning vowed to work for a rule-based approach to migration.

Addressing a Labour Party activity in Paola he said he wanted to put Europe back on its feet to manage migration as best as it could, in line with its ideals and values.

“Those arriving on our shores must find a place… We must strive to uphold human life and dignity. Every life lost off our shores is a stain on our civilisation,” he said.

He reiterated what he had said during a news conference earlier today that Europe was a continent without a migration policy “and the sooner we face this the better”.

The EU, he said, should act together in a spirit of loyalty and solidarity among all 28 member states.

A rule-based approach to migration, he said, was needed to avoid driving people into the hands of criminal people.

“Those who tell us we do not need a legal migration system serve to the interests of criminal gangs, winning money from the poorest people of the world. Migration needs a long term vision and political commitment to make sure that the EU attracts the skills it needs for its labour market.”

He noted that a quarter of arrivals were children and many lost their life at sea.

“We cannot remain there and watch people die. I want to make Lampedusa a turning point in the EU migration policy… Turning our backs on countries that need help is tempting but I will not accept this attitude,” he promised.

Addressing the people gathered as comrades, he said migration was a common European responsibility, not a Maltese, Greek, Italian or Bulgarian issue.

European response and coordination was needed. No ship master should be afraid of prosecution when saving lives, he said adding that people carrying out their human duty should be honoured and not punished.

He also noted that Malta has one of the highest proportions of asylum seekers in Europe and he wanted to help the country with relocation.

Mr Schulz said that he could not accept the populist claim that asylum seekers were economic refugees.

“Closing borders is not the answer for people fleeing persecution and war… We must fight the causes of migration and never the migrants themselves… This is where we must do more in prevention, particularly with countries such as Libya… We should focus on reforms in human rights, narrowing social and economic realities. When people find a job, food and dignity, they would want to stay at home,” he said.

Mr Schulz said that legal migration did not mean that everybody would be able to relocate to Europe.

“I am in favour of an orderly and controlled legal migration system. Every country must accept its fair share of migrants. Behind illegal migration are criminal gangs,” he said.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told his supporters that with their vote they had to ensure that the EU would have a leader that understood them, someone who was part of them.

“We cannot have Europe which has regulations on everything, some of them irrelevant to our lives and excessive bureaucracy but no common policy on migration…

“If Schulz is elected, he will push for this policy which would see that there are legal ways to reach Europe but the burden will be shared by all EU member states…

“He is telling us that Malta will not be alone. Whoever is concerned about this situation and that Malta was left to deal with it alone must vote Labour to elect Schulz as EU president,” he said.

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