Watch: Abela determined to recover EU funds for offshore migrant detention boats

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Prime Minister Robert Abela is determined that the European Union should foot the bill for the makeshift offshore detention vessels used to detain more than 400 asylum seekers that were rescued in the Maltese search and rescue region. Malta had closed its ports to humanitarian charity vessels carrying out search and rescue missions, further it had declared that it could not guarantee salvage of asylum seekers at sea amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Subsequently over 400 individuals were rescued in Maltese search and rescue region, while women and children were transferred on land, males were left out at sea for weeks on tourist pleasure boats chartered by the government.

Malta’s decision to detain asylum seekers on a number of pleasure boats – mostly those owned by Captain Morgan – for weeks on end has not found the support of the European Commission, which rejected the government’s request to fund the controversial practice.

The Times of Malta reported that the government sought to use the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund – it still has around €10 million in AMIF funds available for use – but the impromptu floating prisons were deemed ineligible for support.

Replying to a question by this newsroom, Prime Minister Abela insisted that the government could still recover some EU funds to pay for the four vessels it had chartered. “We will not give up,” he said. Malta is still negotiating with the European Commission for a full or partial reimbursement.

Abela remarked that the current negotiations were bearing fruit, even though Malta was initially abandoned. He added that other EU member states did not want to address the issue, making Malta a victim of circumstance. Abela underlined the need for a holistic plan.