An 18-year-old has spent the night outside the Office of the Prime Minister in protest over the authorities' decision to close the ports and bar entry to rescued migrants.
Xandru Cassar, who started the protest on the steps of Auberge de Castille with another young person, Lara Mohnani, on Easter Sunday, said that he wanted to bring attention to the "suffering and danger of the lives of those who are stranded at sea".
"We're here, on Easter Day, because Malta has condemned men, women, and children to death for the crime of escaping death in the first place," the Maltese teenager wrote.
"Societies affirm their values in the state of exception. We've been applauding nurses for these past weeks, but now our nation's title of the 'Nurse of the Mediterranean' is called into question."
"Will Malta condemn innocent souls to the slaughter?"
Malta was described as being the 'nurse of the Mediterranean' when it took in hundreds of troops rescued in the Gallipoli campaign in the first world war. The title was revived during the time of the Libyan uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, when hundreds of workers were evacuated to Malta.
Cassar received an outpouring of support for his cause online and had a few surprise visitors to boost his morale, all while adhering to social distancing rules.
Posting an update early on Monday morning, the university student said, "They're still at sea, I'm still here."
Cassar told Times of Malta that he considered himself to be an active citizen and is no stranger to protests.
“I’ve always done what i feel I should do, and that’s what i’m doing right now, any deed I could undertake, especially for the good of my country and other people, that is what I want to do,” Cassar said.
While no government officials have tried to approach or speak to Xandru, earlier Prime Minister Robert Abela arrived at Castille, where Cassar tried to approach him.
“I tried to hand him a piece of paper. It says: 'I am here to repeat my message to the Maltese government; people who are caught at sea right now should be brought to a safe port as soon as possible'.
“He just said, ‘Grazzi Xandru’, and ran up the stairs, and that is the closest I have gotten to speaking to any officials.”
Xandru says he is grateful for the company of his visitors, and says that it gives him hope that the voice of compassion is strong, no matter how noisier the voices of intolerance are.
“More than personal motivation, on a broader level it makes me feel that there are still people who put humanitarian causes first and it's a shame that we have to be in these circumstances for these distinctions to be made clear.
On Thursday, the government declared ports closed and said it could not guarantee rescue missions as resources were stretched by the COVID-19 pandemic.
NGOs have claimed that that there are over 250 people adrift at sea on four boats.
Prime Minister Robert Abela defended the decision to close the ports on Sunday, saying it was not racially motivated. One could not have migrants brought to Malta when all travel was banned, including most travel between Malta and Gozo, he said.
On Monday EU border agency Frontext told Times of Malta that it was searching for a boat that had gone missing between Malta and Libya.
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