Only solution is political – Arnold Cassola

The irregular migrants departing from Libya and landing on our shores are the victims of unscrupulous human traffickers who run a veritable illegal racket, which can prove to be extremely lucrative for them.

Unfortunately, hundreds, if not thousands, die in the perilous sea crossing but the traffickers, most of whom are Libyans even though some Maltese citizens have been caught employed in this infamous trade, do not care: human lives are readily sacrificed on the altar of Mammon.

The situation this year has not been any different from the previous ones but the outcry has been far louder. What happened to increase the perception that we are being invaded? The answer is simple: the leaders of our country -with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Home Affairs Minister Manwel Mallia in the forefront – have given the people the erroneous impression that they are free to block the arrival of irregular migrants whenever they want to.

It is amazing how a politician with supposedly strong European experience like Muscat and a supposedly seasoned lawyer like Mallia seemed to have had no inkling of international law and of the various international conventions that Malta has signed and adhered to.

The majority of migrants that arrive here hail from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan, all troubled countries and, therefore, international law (which Malta adheres to) allows them to ask for asylum status and/or international protection.

The push back policy considered by the Prime Minister flouts that same international law that he should be the first to uphold. But, of course, it is obvious that, for Muscat, it is the votes that come first and not the rights of refugees, who do not have a vote in Malta.

Hence, the macho attitude of the Prime Minister in July when he was so ‘brave’ in threatening to push back the men, women and children who had entered our country even though they had a right to apply for asylum status.

Such behaviour can have strong international repercussions on our country.

In trying to be tough with the weak, Muscat made three grave mistakes.

First of all, he led the charge against Cecilia Malmström when he declared to the press that she should take the asylum seekers to Sweden. His bravado led to an onslaught of insults by Maltese citizens on the Swedish European commissioner’s Facebook.

Realising what a Pandora’s box he had opened, he came up with the pathetic excuse that she would not understand his “British sense of humour”.

Pathetic, because his humour is not humorous at all.

The second serious mistake was his miscalculation of people’s reactions to his push back bravado. When a good number of Maltese heard their Prime Minister speak the way he did, they thought they were justified in bringing out in the open their latent fears of diversity, their latent xenophobia, their hidden racist sentiments.

Again, Muscat only realised later that his words had ignited a fire of hatred that was difficult to quell. He dissociated himself from all the racist comments… but the damage had been done.

The result today is that we have hundreds of Maltese parents who have adopted children from Ethiopia, Cambodia, Brazil and are living in fear for their (Maltese citizens!) future in our country because of their dark-coloured skin or their almond shaped eyes.

The third grave mistake on Muscat’s part is that he gave the Maltese the impression that the migration issue could be solved through the use of force. This was utterly irresponsible.

There is only one way to eventually solve the problem and that is through political and diplomatic dialogue. Rather than playing the ‘hero’, he should have gone to his 10 European Socialist Prime Minister colleagues and made his case.

We at Alternattiva Demokratika have done this with our European Green counterparts. So much so that the European Greens have taken the lead in asking that solidarity in practice should be shown by other EU member states with border countries like Malta that are bearing a disproportionate burden with regard to migration.

The European Greens are asking the other EU countries to share the responsibility and burden with Malta. Above all, the European Greens are asking for the revision of the Dublin III Convention, which would allow for the relocation to other states of asylum seekers who would have landed here and applied for their asylum status in our country.

This is the official policy of the European Green Party. AD has persuaded our European counterparts to take the initiative on all these requests through discussions and negotiations and not by “stamping our feet and making them smell the coffee”.

Are the Prime Minister’s Socialist colleagues ignoring him? Is he able to persuade the European Socialists to back the Green position?

And what about Simon Busuttil’s EPP colleagues? Are they ignoring him too? Is he able to persuade his 12-odd European Popular Party Prime Minister colleagues to join the Greens in our demands?

If any of the two managed to persuade their respective European political family, the support of the European Parliament for responsibility/burden sharing would have been clinched.

So, rather than being strong with the weak (with no vote) and weak with the strong Maltese (hunters, Armier squatters… all having a vote), the Prime Minister should forget the macho rhetoric and get his Socialist colleagues to agree to the only political solution possible.