Watch: Malta, Libya, sign agreement on migration

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Malta and Libya have signed a memorandum of understanding on migration, the government announced on Thursday evening after reports emerged of an unannounced visit to Libya earlier during the day.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Robert Abela, together with Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo and Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri went to Libya to hold meetings with the Government of National Accord focusing on migration.

Abela met with his counterpart, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Saraj to discuss the “unprecedented” challenges and “disproportionate pressures” which irregular migration is creating in the Mediterranean.

[فيديو] رئيس وزراء مالطا يختتم زيارة رسمية إلى ليبيا بعد إجراء محادثات مع رئيس المجلس الرئاسي

Posted by ‎المكتب الإعلامي لرئيس المجلس الرئاسي لحكومة الوفاق الوطني‎ on Thursday, May 28, 2020

During his first official visit as Prime Minister, Abela stressed that the solution to irregular migration can be found by taking concrete action in Libya. The government said that the newly signed memorandum of understanding establishes the setting up of two coordinating centres to combat “human trafficking”.

Trafficking can involve smuggling when a person is taken across a border by a person or persons who would profit. The facilitator who smuggles a person across a border would then force the person into an exploitative situation. Not all smuggled individuals are trafficked, and the same applies vice versa.

In a statement, the government said that the Prime Minister reaffirmed Malta’s position on the need to address the challenge of migration while the Libyan Prime Minister was quoted saying that some 800,000 illegal migrants had arrived from other countries and were in Libya.

Both leaders spoke about the need to strengthen cooperation to ensure that lives are not lost at sea and to combat human traffickers on the ground and at sea.

Abela said that Malta could not carry the burden alone and required its European partners to support countries in the Mediterranean with the necessary resources to face this challenge.

“The solution clearly lies in concrete action on Libyan shores and its southern border. Principally, through addressing and stopping human trafficking, rather than focusing just on relocation of migrants to other countries,” Abela said.

Malta and Libya have agreed to set up a coordination unit in each country to assist in operations against illegal migration. The centres are expected to resume operations in the coming weeks.

OPM

The agreement stipulates Malta’s support for Libya in the EU for the provision of financial assistance through the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework.

Libya has not ratified key human rights convention most notably the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. It is however party to the 1969 Organisation of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, which in spirit incorporates the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.

However, Libya’s international obligations are yet to be implemented through national asylum legislation. Currently refugees and asylum-seekers are often considered illegal migrants.

PM heads to Libya for migration talks

A Maltese delegation led by Prime Minister Robert Abela has flown to Libya early Thursday morning. This was first disclosed by human rights activist, Marc Tilley, who wrote on Twitter saying that the delegation was composed of the Prime Minister, as well as Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri and Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo.

This is the first official visit for Abela since he took office earlier this year.

The Maltese delegation is expected to hold meetings with the Government of National Accord Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, Foreign Minister Mohamed Siala and Home Affairs Minister Fathi Bashaga. Discussions are set to focus on migration.

Newsbook.com.mt reached out to the Office of the Prime Minister for a comment, which have since confirmed that the delegation is in Libya. No further details about the visit were disclosed.

Malta has adopted a hardline stance on migration since the beginning of the pandemic by declaring its ports closed to migrant landings, as well as stressing that it could not guarantee rescue at sea citing that it did not have enough resources.

More than 350 asylum seekers remain held on tourist pleasure boats chartered by the government from Captain Morgan outside Maltese territorial waters. Some of the individuals have been there for almost a month, with the Maltese government insisting on a European solution. The migrants were rescued in the Maltese search and rescue region, which falls under the responsibility of Malta. The latest group of migrants was composed of 90 individuals that were rescued on Monday night and transferred to one of the Captain Morgan vessels early on Tuesday. Eighteen women and eight children from the latest group were disembarked in Malta after they were deemed vulnerable.

Earlier on this month, the government withdrew from an EU naval operation, Irini. The operation enforces a Libyan arms embargo which is seen to be selectively punishing the Government of National Accord by intercepting weapons exports from Turkey.