The recycled summit

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The Valletta Migration Summit is over. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has described it as a ‘historic summit’. It seems to me that it would be more accurately described as the ‘recycled summit’.

In one of the last speeches at the Summit, on Thursday morning, Senegalese President Macky Sall encapsulated in a few words the sentiments of the African side when he stated that African nations would have no need of aid if multinationals corporations active on the African continent paid their fair share of taxes and a fair price for the natural (African) resources. Of course President Sall left out an important last sentence: he avoided any reference to corrupt politicians generally in sync with these multinational corporations.

Earlier in the week had seen the 20th anniversary of the judicial killing of environmental activist Ken Saro Wiwa and his colleagues, who were executed on the orders of a secret military tribunal on the basis of trumped-up charges in Nigeria on 10 November 1995. Ken Saro Wiwa and his colleagues had  stood up in defence of the Ogoni people against Anglo-Dutch multinational Shell, who ignored one and all in its intensive corporate greed.

The conclusions of the Valletta Summit are nothing but a re-cycling of measures that have been discussed for some time: EU leaders have continued to focus on returning migrants and outsourcing problems to frontline states. This is an approach that the EU had previously attempted with Libyan dictator Gaddafi who, way back in 2010, had demanded €5 billion as his price-tag to stem the flow of immigrants across the Mediterranean. In contrast, the initial carrot dangled before African heads of state was a mere €1.8 billion. Another €3 billion was simultaneously being offered to Turkey by Frans Timmermans Vice President of the EU Commission.

Bargaining with non-EU countries in the hope of trading EU funds in return for re-admission mechanisms is not the right approach. The original EU proposal of linking funds to a take-back of immigrants who did not qualify for asylum had to be withdrawn as the African side of the Summit refused the bait.

The causes of immigration into the EU are various. They range from repression and civil war to the accumulating impacts of climate change – primarily drought and the resulting collapse of domestic agriculture. Matters are made worse as a result of tribal rivalry, as well as the absence of the strong institutions of a democratic state. Consequently, the resulting vacuum is filled by corrupt politicians who, after taking their fill from accommodating multinational corporations seek to top up their spoils through additional contributions from Brussels.

The situation is tricky for the EU as there is no one else to talk to. It is for this reason that the Action Plan tied the proposed €1.8 billion assistance to specific projects subdivided into sixteen priority areas built around five priority domains.

Will this Action Plan solve anything? It is too early to tell, as it is a long-term issue which will be implemented within a number of timeframes specified in the plan itself. The main point of contention remains the immediate short term, during which the pressures on the EU borders will keep increasing to the point that, as Donald Tusk indicated, the whole Schengen process is under threat.

In this context it is pertinent to underline that Malta has recently been spared the troubles as the flow of immigrants ending in Malta has decreased to a trickle as a result of Italy taking up all immigrants that it has intercepted or rescued in Malta’s search and rescue area. The reasons why Italy is behaving in this manner are not yet officially known: the rumour mill has it that oil exploration rights are part of the equation. Originally, Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela had indicated that there was some informal agreement with Italy only for him to come back and state that he had been understood.

As stated by Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian Prime Minister and Liberal leader in the European Parliament : “The EU leaders have let us down.”

While the Valletta Summit has agreed to a reasonably detailed Action Plan which can form the basis of action in the long term, it has failed at containing the migration crisis in the short term.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 15 November 2015

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Iċ-ċaħda ma ssolvi xejn: kun trasparenti

 

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Il-gazzetta Taljana Il-Giornale tal-Ħamis 17 ta’ Settembru qabdet ma kelmtejn li qal il-Ministru tal-Intern Malti Carmelo Abela u waslet għal konklużjoni li hemm ftehim sigriet bejn Malta u l-Italja li permezz tiegħu l-Italja iġġorr il-piz tal-immigranti f’dawn l-ibħra u min-naħa l-oħra Malta ser tagħlaq għajnejha għall-esplorazzjoni għaż-żejt mill-Italja f’żoni fejn dan hu ikkontestat.

Il-Gvern Malti ċaħad li hemm dan il-ftehim. Tajjeb li saret din iċ-ċaħda, għax ngħid il-verità jiena ukoll rajtha ftit imġebbda. Għax kieku dan kien minnu kien ikun ġustifikat li l-Gvern jiġi akkużat bi tradiment. Imma ma naħsibx li hu l-każ.

Minkejja dan, iżda, ċ-ċaħda ftit li xejn ser issolvi. Għax hu ovvju li xi tip ta’ ftehim hemm. Anke jekk hu ftehim li hu biss wieħed ibbażat fuq il-ħbiberija.

Kien ikun tajjeb kieku l-Gvern, apparti ċaħda, ippubblika d-dokumentazzjoni li għandu dwar l-arranġamenti li wasal għalihom mal-Gvern Taljan.

Għax ngħiduha kif inhi, kemm Joseph kif ukoll uħud mill-Ministri ta’ madwaru iħobbu jiżolqu biex jevitaw milli jagħtu l-informazzjoni. F’materja sensittiva bħal din, għaldaqstant iċ-ċaħda ftit li xejn ser issolvi.

Is-sejħa li nagħmel lil Gvern hi waħda: poġġi l-karti kollha fuq il-mejda, illum qabel għada. Kun trasparenti.

Kif jinbidlu l-ideat!

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Huwa ta’ sodisfazzjon li l-ideat tal-politiċi fil-Parlament dwar l-immigranti inbidlu tul is-snin.

Niftakru sewwa meta l-PN fil-Gvern kien jappoġġa lill-Gvern Taljan. Dakinnhar il-Gvern Taljan b’Berlusconi Prim Ministru u l-Legista Roberto Maroni Ministru tal-Intern kien qed imexxi l-quddiem politika ta’push-back: jiġifieri li jimbotta lill-immigranti lura lejn il-Libja. Inkella jekk isalvhom jeħodhom lura fil-Libja.

Ankè Joseph Muscat bħala Prim Ministru bl-appoġġ ta’ Manwel Mallia Ministru tal-Intern mexxa l-quddiem politika ta’ push-backs. Niftakru meta ordnaw ajruplani tal-AirMalta, biex jieħdu lill-immigranti lura lejn il-Libja fis-sajf tal-2013. Dakkinhar il-Gvern immexxi minn Muscat kien inżamm mill-Qorti Ewropeja tad-Drittijiet tal-Bniedem fuq talba tal-għaqdiet Maltin li jaħdmu favur id-drittijiet tal-immigranti.

Dawk iż-żmienijiet fortunatament spiċċaw għax issa jidher li kkonvertew u m’għadhomx jitkellmu jew ikesksu favur il-push-backs.

Huwa ta’ sodisfazzjoni li anke fuq din ġew jaqblu ma Alternattva Demokratika li dejjem tkellmet kontra l-push-backs u favur is-solidarjetà.

Huwa tajjeb li issa lkoll leħen wieħed kontra push-backs u favur is-solidarjeta. Hekk bħala pajjiż aħna ħafna iktar kredibbli meta ninsisitu li l-Unjoni Ewropeja għandha terfa’ parti mill-piż magħna l-Maltin.

Iż-żjara tal-President Ġermaniż f’dan is-sens hi ukoll ċelebrazzjoni favur id-dinjità tal-immigrant. Tajjeb ħafna. Imma għad baqa’ ħafna x’isir għax għadna fil-bidu.

 

The Summit of Shame

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Thursday’s EU Heads of Government Summit was a summit of shame. Through its conclusions, the European Council showed once more that, collectively, it lacks the moral spine to address the xenophobic fringes of European society.

The special summit ended up being just a collection of half-baked measures.  The EU heads of government have ignored the calls of the  political groups of the EU parliament which called for a more coherent EU migration policy, and for fixed quotas of asylum-seekers to be taken in by each and every EU member country.

Despite the available financial resources being increased, only a limited mandate has been given to the Triton operation for the saving of lives in the Mediterranean. No possibility of applying for humanitarian visas directly in the troubled countries in the African continent has been made possible and, with all its vaunted cry of responsibility-sharing, there is only the establishment of a voluntary pilot project on resettlement across the EU of people qualifying for protection.

These half-baked decisions will not solve the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean: they will only make it worse.

The number of immigrants waiting along the Libyan coast are said to be close to one million. They are there in the hope of building a new future. They know  they are risking their lives but, most probably, they will still try – they have been  at the wrong end of the stick for many years.

They are escaping from war, violence and endless poverty and they have a right to be helped and rescued. Triton is not fit for this purpose, not only because of its limited resources but also because it is primarily aimed at protecting borders and not at rescuing people.

The illusion that stopping Mare Nostrum would discourage these dangerous trips has been proved false: migrants and asylum-seekers have continued flocking to Europe at an increased rate and this situation will not change in the  coming weeks and months. The member states of the EU have to acknowledge that priority needs to be given to saving lives and giving refuge to people, not making ‘fortress Europe’ even more impenetrable, because this has been shown to be tragically impossible.

There is no way around it: all EU member states must accept a greater share of refugees and facilitate legal access to the EU. Instead of sealing borders, procedures and safe corridors must be set up to this effect and it is therefore urgent to establish a properly financed, European wide Mare Nostrum to enhance the search for and rescue of people drifting in the Mediterranean Sea.

The EU heads of government do not have the moral spine to stand up to Europe’s xenophobic fringes. They do not have the political will to implement a policy of solidarity across the EU.  I can therefore only conclude that this week’s  EU Summit can be considered a summit of shame, as it has prioritised the security of borders over  the safety of human beings.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 26 April 2015

Traġedja umana madwarna

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Madwarna qed tiżviluppa traġedja umana. Traġedja li qed tintiseġ minn dawk li qed jagħmlu l-kummerċ mill-ħajja umana.

Waqt li l-pajjiżi Ewropej iparlaw u jsejħu laqgħat ta’ emergenza fi Brussel, fil-Mediterran, fuq il-fruntiera tal-Unjoni Ewropeja Malta, l-Italja, Spanja, l-Greċja u Ċipru qed jissieltu biex isalvaw il-ħajjiet. Il-problema mhiex problema ta’ Malta, tal-Italja, ta’ Spanja, tal-Greċja jew ta’ Ċipru. Hi problema tal-Ewropa kollha.

Dak li qed jiġri illum mhux xi ħaga ġdida. Ilna s-snin, bis-sofferenza tkompli tiżdied bil-paroli li s’issa ma jwassal għall-ebda soluzzjoni.

Il-bieraħ it-Tnejn, fil-Lussimburgu, l-Unjoni Ewropeja  ġiebet flimkien lill-Ministri tal-Intern u tal-Affarijiet Barranin tal-Unjoni biex jiddiskutu azzjoni komuni fid-dawl ta’ din it-traġedja. Jidher li hemm kunsens dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ ġlieda ikkordinata kontra n-negozjanti tal-mewt.

Fil-waqt li hu ċar li ser isir sforz kollettiv biex isalvaw lil dawk kollha mitluqa għall-mewt, fittixt fil-gazzetti Maltin online dwar x’ser jiġri minn dawk li jkunu ġew salvati. Ir-risposta sibtha fir-rapport tal-Guardian li jgħid li fuq bażi volontarja l-pajjiżi membri ser jirrilokaw 5,000 ruħ, u dan bħala proġett pilota. Jiġifieri anke issa f’din il-kriżi ta’ proporzjonijiet li qatt ma rajna bħala il-pajjiżi membri tal-Unjoni Ewropeja għadhom ma jridux jaċċettaw li għandhom obbligu ta’ solidarjeta’.

Is-solidarjeta m’għandhiex  issir b’mod volontarju: għandu jkun rikonoxxut li hemm l-obbligu biex kull wieħed mit-28 pajjiż membru tal-Unjoni Ewropeja jerfa’ l-piż flimkien mal-pajjiżi membri l-oħra.

Bla dubju dan ser ikun l-argument ta’ Malta fis-summit tal-mexxejja tal-Unjoni Ewropeja nhar il-Ħamis li ġej.  Alternattiva Demokratika taqbel perfettament li Malta tinsisti li kull pajjiż jerfa’ parti mill-piż. Imma konxju li fl-Unjoni hemm mexxejja bħal Cameron li qed jiġġieled elezzjoni ġenerali li fiha qed iwiegħed li jnaqqas d-dħul ta’ immigranti fil-pajjiż, sfortunatmaent jiena ma tantx qed nara possibilita li dan iseħħ.

Indifferenza li toqtol

Mediterranean tragedy

Il-mewt mgħarrqa ta’ mill-inqas 700 immigrant fil-baħar bejn il-Libja u Lampedusa hu frott tal-kultura tal-indifferenza li tirrendja madwarna. Huma 700 persuna li qed jaħarbu mill-konflitti u mill-miżerja, sfruttati min-nies bla skrupli u injorati mill-bqija.

Huma 700 persuna li ħtieġu l-għajnuna u din ma ġietx mogħtija lilhom. Minn flok  ma ngħataw l-għajnuna tħallew jaqdfu għal rashom.

Hi problema kontinwa li l-pajjiżi Ewropej fuq il-fruntiera Mediterranja tal-Unjoni Ewropeja tħallew jiffaċċjaw waħedhom. Għax l-istrutturi Ewropeja li kienu kapaċi jħeġġu s-solidarjetà mal-banek f’diffikultà għalqu għajnejhom u sabu diffikultà biex jgħinu l-bniedem li qed jaħrab mill-miżerja u t-terrur.

Allura qed isejħu iktar laqgħat biex juru li taparsi qed jagħmlu xi ħaġa. Dawn huma l-istess nies li ftit ilu kien jrewħu l-mibgħeda u jitkellmu fuq il-pushbacks. Kienu jħeġġu li d-dgħajjes bil-bnedmin maħruba kellhom jitreġġgħu lura minn fejn ġew. Kienu jgħidulna ukoll li dawk li xorta jaslu għandhom ilestulhom l-ajruplani w jibgħatuhom lura minn fejn ġew.

Bħat-traġedji ta’ qabilha, din l-aħħar traġedja hi ukoll ikkawżata mill-indifferenza tal-istituzzjonijiet.

Sadanittant, iktar paroli. Iċ-ċimiterju madwarna jkompli jikber: ħtija tal-indifferenza.

Iċ-Ċimiterju madwarna, f’nofs il-Mediterran

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F’nofs il-Mediterran, il-baħar ta’ madwarna, qiegħed bil-mod ikun ittrasformat f’ċimiterju. Ċimiterju ta’ bnedmin maħruba mill-gwerer u l-għawġ. Ċimiterju ta’ ħolm li sfaxxa.

Huma ċirkustanzi li qed jiżviluppaw madwarna minħabba l-posizzjoni ġejografika ta’ Malta.

F’dan il-kuntest Malta għandha obbligi imma għandha ukoll drittijiet.

Malta għandha l-obbligu li tagħti servizz ta’ salvataġġ. Li tagħti l-għajnuna lil kull min ikun f’diffikulta fiż-żona ta’ salvataġġ li hi responsabbilta’ ta’ Malta. Dan Malta qed tagħmlu. Dan  l-aħħar b’impenn kbir. Għal żmien qasir kien hemm min kien qed jaħsibha jekk jissospendix l-obbligi internazzjonali tal-pajjiż, imma fortunatament din tidher li kienet fażi li għaddiet – nispera biss li ma terġax lura.

L-obbligu li Malta tagħti servizz ta’ salvataġġ ma jfissirx li Malta m’għandhiex ukoll drittijiet.

Malta flimkien ma Lampedusa hi għassiesa ta’ din il-parti tal-fruntiera fin-nofsinnhar tal-Unjoni Ewropeja. M’għadhiex iktar fruntiera ta’ Malta jew fruntiera tal-Italja iżda hi fruntiera tal-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Ir-responsabbilta li tirriżulta minn dan kollu għaldaqstant m’hiex ta’ Malta jew tal-Italja waħedha iżda tal-Unjoni kollha. Huwa għalhekk li l-Unjoni Ewropeja għandha l-obbligu morali li flimkien magħna terfa’ din ir-responsabbilta.

F’dan il-mument diffiċli huwa neċessarju li bħala pajjiż nibqgħu ffukati fuq li nagħmlu dmirna anke’ jekk ħaddieħor jibqa’ jkaxkar saqajh biex iwettaq id-dmirijiet tiegħu. Jeħtieġ ukoll li nevitaw paroli vojt li jista’ jkun interpretat ħażin. Ma nara xejn ħażin li fil-mument addattat pajjiżna, kemm jekk waħdu jew preferibilment ma pajjiżi oħra milqutin bħalna jieħu dik l-azzjoni li tkun xierqa fiċ-ċirkustanzi. Azzjoni ikkalkulata biex tħares l-interess nazzjonali fit-tul.

Fil-waqt li l-interess nazzjonali jitlob dan, fl-istess ħin nibqgħu obbligati li nagħmlu d-dmir tagħna u dan irrispettivament minn dak li jagħmel ħaddiehor. Malta qatt ma nħakmet mill-kultura tal-indifferenza. L-ospitalita’ dejjem kienet karatteristika li tiddistingwina minn oħrajn. Hekk għandna nibqgħu f’din is-siegħa tal-prova. Dan minkejja li nibqgħu ninsistu li ħaddieħor jistenbaħ u jwettaq dmiru huwa ukoll. B’hekk ikun evitat li l-baħar ta’ madwarna jsir ċimiterju mhux biss ta’ iġsma iżda fuq kollox ċimiterju ta’ ħolm u aspirazzjonijiet li sfaxxaw.