'This is not racism, this is reality,' says Robert Abela

Prime Minister testifies in magisterial inquiry

Mon, May 4th 2020, 11:18 Last updated on 4/5/20

Prime Minister Robert Abela on Monday insisted the government was taking a pragmatic approach to migration driven by "reality, not racism". 

Fielding questions from reporters on the steps of the Valletta court house, Abela assured that the 57 migrants being held on a Captain Morgan tourist boat were given all the necessary food and medical attention. 

Following discussions with the European Commission on Friday, Abela said the government held firm against demands to first disembark the migrants before discussing relocation. 

The Commission says that Malta should disembark the migrants before a distribution solution can be reached. 

Abela said a solution had to be offered before the migrants could disembark. 

The prime minister was speaking shortly after testifying before a magisterial inquiry, which is looking into Malta's decision to close its ports to migrants, as well as alleged sabotage on a migrant boat by the Armed Forces.  

On the migrants sent back to Libya over the Easter period, Abela again said it was not a "pushback". 

He said private fishing vessels were used for the rescue as state assets were occupied in five other rescue operations.

Abela said the Libyan-flagged vessel had simply returned to its home port, as Malta's ports are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The prime minister said Neville Gafá was used for the operation due to his contacts with the Libyan authorities. 

Abela said there were no plans to again engage Gafá at the Office of the Prime Minister. 

Asked if there were any plans to distribute face masks to households, Abela vowed the government would keep on helping people.

The government announced on Sunday a 95c price cap on such masks, a move that has angered pharmacists.