Updated at 2.15pm with PN statement
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat hit out at “extremes” on both sides of the migration issue, insisting again that Malta could not be expected to come up with a solution alone.
Speaking at a political activity in Żabbar, Dr Muscat said Malta could neither listen to those calling for migrants to be left to drown at sea, nor to those who said anyone arriving by boat should be accepted into the country.
“We have to be humanitarian and give help when it’s needed, but this is also a question of security; we cannot allow a free-for-all,” he said.
“Writing from behind a keyboard in the comfort of your home is easy, but I believe many of these people have no idea what they are saying. If the same people walked outside and saw an injured cat, they would try to help.”
The Prime Minister was speaking at the end of a week in which 49 migrants were brought into Malta, at the end of a 22-day ordeal which saw them stranded at sea on board rescue vessels as EU countries debated who should take them in.
Dr Muscat, however, insisted that the migrants could have been taken back to Libya or onwards to Tunisia or Italy, the latter of which had refused entry, and that the problem “had nothing to do with Malta”.
“We were clear with our European colleagues that we didn’t create the problem and the solution could not be solely ours,” he said, noting that the AFM had just days earlier rescued 250 other migrants in imminent danger.
“My argument was that when Italy closed its ports, Europe stepped in to help, so we could not have a situation where Malta is shown no solidarity because we are following the rules.”
Dr Muscat said Europe had to show moral leadership and could not close its eyes to a humanitarian situation, but could not allow any and all to enter without consequence.
He insisted the current situation was untenable and that a “sensible” EU-wide position was urgently needed.
‘PN only respects democracy when convenient’
Turning his focus to the turmoil within the PN, Dr Muscat said: “The people elected a leader and it is clear that the powers that be in the party do not respect that decision. This betrays a mind-set where democracy is only relevant if you like what the people have decided.”
He said the situation was evidence that the Labour Party was the only one capable of leading the country.
“If the PN were in power right now, the economy and the entire country would have come to a standstill. If they are not capable of running an Opposition, how can they be expected to run a country?”
Give institutions the space they need - PN
In a statement reacting to Dr Muscat's speech, the Nationalist Party dismissed his talk of aspiring to make Malta one of the world's top 10 democracies.
"If he really wants that, he should ensure institutions are no longer controlled by his government. He should see to it that the Attorney General and police commissioner are not there to obey orders they receive," the PN said.
The party also reiterated its calls to receive a copy of the Egrant inquiry.
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