A summit by EU leaders on Thursday had sent a strong message to Libya to resolve its ongoing conflict “as time was running out”, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.
Muscat was addressing an extraordinary parliamentary meeting discussing the Brussels summit, in which EU leaders resolved to destroy smugglers’ boats ahead of setting out with their human ‘cargo’.
He reiterated that the recent Mediterranean shipwrecks had “finally awoken the EU’s collective resolve to find a solution” to the migration crisis.
Muscat praised Thursday’s EU summit as proof that the EU was willing to clamp down on human traffickers that operate irregular migrants’ trips.
“Smugglers are getting rich from their criminal activities… they could have earned €1.5 million from last week’s shipwreck alone…. The EU’s conclusions are a step forward, and the European climate has clearly changed,” Muscat said.
He said that destroying smugglers’ boats was only a short-term solution, and long-term solutions must be based on democracy and investment. He also spoke of setting up vetting centres to process asylum seekers inside North Africa.
He also said that while he did not want to blow wind into the sails of extremist voices out on the street, the government should not close its ears to the people’s concerns, and instead “educate them”.
“Some Marsa residents are worried that their property value has sunk and that walking in the streets is dangerous,” he said. “We have a responsibility to listen to the concerns of both locals and immigrants.”
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said he welcomed Muscat’s “change of tone” on immigration, from one of pushbacks “to one of compassion”.
He said he was disappointed that the EU Council’s meeting placed too little focus on solidarity amongst EU member states.
He questioned whether an agreement existed between Malta and Italy through which the latter rescued all the migrants, and insisted that Malta shouldnt surrender rights due to migration pressures.
As a whole, he said that the Opposition agreed with the results of last night’s summit.
“However, we heard the same words from a EU summit after the 2013 Lampedusa tragedy, and the time has now come to translate them into action,” Busuttil said.
Thursday’s urgent EU migration summit failed in finding a political solution to the Libyan conflict, shadow foreign minister Tonio Fenech said, criticising the EU council for failing to address a political solution to the Libyan conflict.
“The lack of a clear Libyan state has left the door wide open for smugglers to operate in,” he said. “Although the EU is supportig the UNs peacekeeping mission, frustratingly little progresss is being made on this level.
“While the EU’s solutions prove they are willing to help Tunisia, Niger, Egypt and Mali to strengthen their borders, they did not speak of Libya beyond their support for the UN mission.
“The EU seemed far more committed to findng a solution when the Ukraine crisis broke out, than it has in the wake of the Libyan crisis. The EU is not using all its instruments at its disposal, and is leaving too much in the hands of the UN.”
He encouraged the government to keep pressuring the EU to take a stronger stance on Libya.