Home Affairs Minister defends offshore detention decision

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri has defended the government’s decision to have an offshore detention facility for asylum seekers rescued at sea.

Fielding questions from the media during a press conference on Monday, Minister Camilleri underlined that the country needs a place where it could segregate individuals. He remarked that the government has a duty towards the well-being of the Maltese and that of the migrants.

The minister said that the ‘worst’ thing that could happen was not to have such a facility.

Asylum seekers rescued at sea would be held offshore either until their quarantine period is over or until they recover from the virus, Camilleri said. He added that it would be only then that they would be allowed to disembark on land.

Speaking about the tendering process, Camilleri said that one of the bidders had filed an appeal. Some 14 applicants have expressed their interest and participated in the tendering process to provide an “accommodation vessel” to house asylum seekers. The cost ranges from between €12,400 a day up to €150,000.

The government is considering detaining 200 asylum seekers offshore for up to a month, according to the call for expression of interest which was published on 30 July.

Government issues call for “accommodation vessel”
Govt. seeks vessel to quarantine immigrants at sea

Earlier this year, Malta had closed its ports to migrant landings and humanitarian NGOs. The country had claimed that it could not guarantee the resources needed to conduct salvage at sea.

During the pandemic, the government then moved to lease a total of four pleasure cruise vessels to detain migrants offshore.

Later it emerged that the government had spent €1.7 million to detain asylum seekers offshore.