Updated - Adds AD reaction and government replies (below) to comments by Simon Busuttil -
The government is denying there is any agreement with the Italian government linking migration to oil exploration rights.
According to the government, the fact that Italy is taking all irregular migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, even those who, according to international law, are Malta’s responsibility, can only be attributed to “close collaboration”.
Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela said on Tuesday there was an informal agreement between the two countries about migrants but a few hours later he corrected himself saying there was “close collaboration”. Italian MEP Barbara Matera yesterday said she would be pushing the Italian government to confirm or deny any “secret deal” with Malta.
“Italian MPs will be raising the issue in Parliament with urgency to seek whether it is true that there is an oil-for-migrants deal with the Maltese government,” a spokesman for Ms Matera told the Times of Malta.
“If this is not true, and I hope this is clarified, then the Italian government needs to explain in detail why it has suddenly decided to take all irregular migrants from Malta to Italy,” she said.
During a visit to Malta in 2013, then Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said that, apart from migration, Malta and Italy were also discussing the possibility of joint offshore oil exploration in disputed areas south of Sicily. Although he had said that a final agreement was expected to be reached by the end of 2013, no agreement has been announced since.
Meanwhile, in reaction to remarks by Opposition leader Simon Busuttill, (http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150918/local/oil-drilling-rights-in-exchange-for-migrants-national-betrayal-simon.584932 ) the government said that by repeating a lie found on an Italian newspaper, Dr Busuttil was devaluing politics.
The government insisted that it is following international rules and that there is close collaboration between Malta and Italy as well as other countries. However there is no agreement concerning migrants or linking migrants to oil exploration. This, it said was an invention of the Italian newspaper.
AD CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO BE TRANSPARENT
Alternattiva Demokratika said it was not enough for the government to issue a denial.
"The denial on its own will not solve anything. It is pretty obvious that there exists some agreement on the matter, even if this is own which is only based on the traditional friendship between Malta and Italy," AD deputy chairman Carmel Cacopardo said.
"It would have been much better if in addition to the denial, the government
published all the documentation which it has in its possession about
what was actually agreed to with the Italian government."
Alternattiva Demokratika called on the government to be transparent.