Malta as a beacon of hope

In mid-April, Giorgia Meloni’s government declared a six-month state of emergency to manage migration flows in the Mediterranean.

To the south of the Mediterranean, violent racism is rising in Tunisia, incited by President Kais Saied’s racist and xenophobic speeches about Black African migrants.

The Central Mediterranean Route for migration connects Tunisia and Libya to the EU through Malta and Italy. It is already one of the most dangerous migration routes in the world, and with these political leaders in Italy and Tunisia, it will become deadlier.

States of emergency increase securitisation around an issue, in this case migration. Migrants are therefore made a “threat” to Italy’s state. Within this state of emergency any measures can be enacted to defend from the perceived threat.

States of emergency, used sparingly, can help to adopt derogations of existing laws to cope with the situation. The coronavirus pandemic is one such case. But under Meloni, this governance tool becomes an anti-democratic, racist, and far-right weapon against some of the most vulnerable in society.

Over the years, the petty posturing between Malta and Italy, including side-deals with Libya’s so-called “coastguard”, has led to people being stranded at sea for days, with many perishing in the Mediterranean.

Just last week, the press reported that Malta had ignored the calls for rescue from a boat carrying 400 migrants.

Meanwhile, in Tunisia, far-right nationalist conspiracy theories like “the great replacement” are fuelling state and citizen violence against Black Africans.

The “state of emergency” in Italy will subject migrants to increased arbitrary detention in unsuitable CPRs (Centres for Repatriation) which Italy’s government wants to double across the country, from 10 to one in every region.

In these centres, migrants will wait to be deported while their human rights are completely stripped from them. In Tunisia, some people might face the hard decision to take a deadly route to “safety” in the EU.

In the face of the far-right, Malta must become a strong beacon of hope and solidarity. What is needed right now is a safe port in the Mediterranean. Our doors must remain open. 

This includes offering shelter to migrants crossing the central Mediterranean route, efforts for timely search and rescue missions in our search and rescue zone, and full cooperation with the ships and cargo vessels that often step in, as is their duty at sea, to save lives.

In parallel to these direct actions, Malta must lead a coalition of EU member states that oppose Meloni’s neo-fascism and will unite to respond with solidarity in offering suitable relocation to the people reaching the EU.

Malta needs to be resolute in standing for human rights, democratic and European values. Any other path from Malta is a legitimisation of far-right policy.

As a European Green politician, I will continue to work with all willing actors and partners, and to support grassroots efforts of solidarity and anti-racist actions. The fight in Italy and in the Mediterranean impacts Europe as a whole.

Mina Jack Tolu
ADPD International Secretary
Published in The Times of Malta – Tuesday 18 April 2023