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

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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.

Mhux Mare Nostrum

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Iż-żjara fostna tal-Kummissarju Ewropew Cecilia Malmström għandha l-intenzjoni li tiffoka fuq l-immigrazzjoni fil-Mediterran u fuq il-ħtieġa ta’ solidarjeta’ effettiva fl-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Għal min isegwi x’inhu jiġri hu ċar li Malmström taqbel fuq il-ħtieġa li l-Unjoni Ewropeja tibda terfa’ r-responsabbilta’ għall-immigrazzjoni. L-Unjoni Ewropeja trid terfa’ din ir-responsabbilta’, iżda huma l-pajjiżi membri li għadhom ma jaqblux li dan għandu jsir.

Fi ftit kliem il-problema tal-immigrazzjoni qabel ma tissolva fi Brussels trid tissolva fl-ibliet kapitali tal-pajjiżi li jifformaw l-Unjoni Ewropeja. Biex dan isir il-Gvern Malti jrid jikkonvinċi lill-Gvernijiet individwali. Mhux biżżejjed li jappoġġawna l-Italja, l-Ġreċja u Ċipru. Hemm bżonn ukoll li jappoġġawna l-pajjiżi l-kbar.

S’issa l-Ġermanja, per eżempju ma qablitx li l-immigrazzjoni tibda tkun kompetenza tal-Unjoni Ewropeja. L-anqas r-Renju Unit ma jaqbel ma dan. Għax dawn pajjiżi li jridu illi dwar l-immigrazzjoni jiddeċiedu huma, mhux l-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Biex nitkellmu ċar jekk irridu road-map, jekk irridu solidarjeta’ obbligatorja, jekk irridu strateġija fit-tul, jekk irridu li pajjiżi fl-Unjoni Ewropeja jkollhom l-obbligu li jieħdu f’pajjiżhom immigranti li jiġu fuq xtutna irridu nifhmu sewwa x’qegħdin ngħidu.  Li qed jgħid il-Gvern Malti – u jiena naqbel ma dan – hu li l-immigrazzjoni ma tibqax iżjed materja li niddeċiedu dwarha aħna fil-Belt Valletta, jew li jiddeċiedu t-Taljani f’Ruma, inkella l-Ġermaniżi f’Berlin. Li qed ngħidu hu li tkun materja li tiddeċiedi dwarha Brussels li jkollha l-jedd li ġġiegħel lill-pajjiżi kollha (bla eċċezzjoni) biex jagħtu daqqa t’id. Ifisser li jkollna politika Ewropeja komuni dwar l-immigrazzjoni.

Din il-proposta tal-Gvern Malti tal-lum kif ukoll tal-Gvern tal-bieraħ hi tajba għax tfisser li l-ġewwa mill-fruntieri tal-Unjoni Ewropeja għandna nerfgħu l-piż ilkoll flimkien, it-28 pajjiż li niffurmaw l-Unjoni Ewropeja. Kull pajjiż għandu jkun mgħejjun, iżda ukoll kull pajjiż ikollu l-obbligu li jgħin ukoll meta dan ikun meħtieġ.

Id-deċiżjonjijiet dwar l-immigrazzjoni fil-fatt għandhom jittieħdu Brusssels. Għax ir-realta’ hi li dan m’huwiex iżjed Mare Nostrum. Fil-fatt hu tagħna lkoll

Fl-Unjoni Ewropeja : l-immigrazzjoni problema tagħna lkoll?

Hollande 2

Mistiedna fi Franza tal-President Francois Hollande diversi mexxejja Soċjalisti ta’ Gvernijiet fl-Unjoni Ewropeja qed jaqblu li l-immigrazzjoni għandha tingħata iktar importanza.

Qalulna ukoll li l-operazzjoni Mare Nostrum immexxija mill-Gvern Taljan għandha tgħaddi f’idejn il-Frontex. Il-Gvern Malti jaqbel ma dan u ser jagħti l-appoġġ kollu tiegħu. Li kieku jseħħ hekk ikun tajjeb. Issa jekk dan isirx jew le ma nafx. Imma anke’ jekk isir, il-proċess ta’ salvataġġ huwa biss parti żgħira minn dak li għandu jsir. Wara li l-immigranti jkunu salvati x’ser jiġri? Hemm qegħda l-problema l-kbira. Dwaha ma hemmx qbil. Min irid il-push-backs u min ma jrid jagħmel xejn.

Issa ħa nkun ċar: jidher li hemm qbil minn Jean Claude Junker li l-Kummissjoni Ewropeja immexxija minnu tagħti prijorita’ lill-immigrazzjoni. M’għandix dubju li ser jipprova  jagħmel hekk. Fid-diskussjoni issemmiet il-ħtieġa ta’ politika olistika dwar l-immigrazzjoni. Junker wiegħed ukoll li ser jeżamina l-proposta tal-Ħodor għall-bdil fir-regoli ta’ Dublin.

Imma biex jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet meħtieġa huma l-Gvernijiet li jridu jiċċaqalqu u mhux il-Kummissjoni Ewropeja biss. Il-Kummissjoni tul is-snin għamlet bosta proposti. Iżda l-passi l-quddiem kienu ftit u bil-mod.

Il-laqgħa ta’ Pariġu hi pass tajjeb. Iżda xi tfisser fil-fatt għad irridu naraw meta niġu għad-deċiżjonijiet. Pariġi kienu presenti rappreżentanti minn 10 pajjiżi, meta fl-Unjoni Ewropeja hemm 28 pajjiż! Kif jaħsbuha it-18-il pajjiż l-ieħor?

Fil-passat kemm il-Gvernijiet immexxija mis-Soċjalisti kif ukoll dawk immexxija mid-Demokristjani jew mill-Liberali dejjem qagħdu lura milli jaċċettaw li l-immigrazzjoni hi problema tal-pajjiżi kollha fl-Unjoni Ewropeja, u mhux biss ta’ dawk fuq il-fruntiera. Jekk is-Soċjalisti hux ser jibdlu it-triq għad irridu naraw.

Meta kienu Malta f’Mejju li għadda kemm Martin Schultz kif ukoll Jean Claude Junker tkellmu b’mod li jpoġġihom viċin ħafna tal-posizzjoni tal-Ħodor fil-Parlament Ewropew.

Jekk dak kienx tejatrin, għad irridu naraw.

L-iżball tal-Ministru George Vella

George Vella 5

George Vella hu persuna valida. Għandu l-ideat tiegħu. Ħadem favur tagħhom biex jara politika aħjar. L-affarijiet mhux dejjem ġew kif xtaq. Għandi kull rispett lejh. Diġa ktibt dwaru xi drabi oħra fuq dan il-blog.

Fl-intervista riċenti li kellu fuq is-CNN, George Vella bħala Ministru tal-Affarijiet Barranin qabad il-problema tal-immigrazzjoni irregolari minn sieqha.

Il-kundizzjonijiet fil-kampijiet tal-immigranti huma fatt. Ir-rewwixti f’dawn il-kampijiet huma fatt ukoll. Pero’ dawn m’humiex il-problema.

Il-problema hi waħda: sempliċi u ikkumplikata fl-istess ħin.

Ir-regoli interni tal-EU magħrufa komunement bħala l-Konvenzjoni ta’ Dublin, jew Dublin II wara xi emendi żgħar li kienu sarulha, ma jippermettux illi refuġjat jiċċaqlaq mill-pajjiż tal-EU li fih ikun niżel l-ewwel darba. Biex dawn ir-regolamenti jinbidlu jeħtieġu l-approvazzjoni tal-Gvernijiet membri tal-EU.

Biex jitnaqqas il-piż minn fuq Malta, Lampedusa (u l-Italja), kif ukoll minn fuq pajjiżi oħra li jkunu effettwati minn żmien għal żmien jeħtieġ li dawn ir-regoli ta’ Dublin jinbidlu.

Il-Ħodor Ewropej (European Greens), wara diskussjoni interna li fiha Alternattiva Demorkatika tat kontribut kbir jaqblu li dawn ir-regoli għandhom jinbidlu u dan biex tkun iffaċilitata l-qsim tar-responsabbilta’ (responsibility sharing) bejn il-pajjiżi kollha membri tal-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Martin Schultz, il-Kandidat Soċjalista għall-Presidenza tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja iddikjara diġa li jaqbel ma dan.

Imma l-Gvernijiet Ewropej għadhom ma qablux.

X’għamel George Vella biex ta’ l-inqas jikkonvinċi lill-Gvernijiet immexxija mis-Soċjalisti?

Din hi l-probelma reali Dr Vella. Mhux aħjar tmidd għonqok għax-xogħol?

Naf li iebsa ħafna. Imma hi l-unika triq. Dejjem aħjar mill-paroli vojt u bla sens.

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.

F’ħoġor Herman van Rompuy

MUSCAT ROMPUY

Wara l-istqarrija tal-Ministru Manwel Mallia fil-Parlament huwa ġustifikat li nistaqsu: issa fejn sejrin?

Il-posizzjonijiet tal-Gvern u l-Opposizzjoni jikkuntrastaw mhux daqstant fl-iskop daqskemm fil-metodu.

Ilkoll kemm aħna naqblu li l-piż tal-immigrazzjoni għall-pajjiżna hu kbir. Naqblu lkoll li għandna nipproteġu l-ħajja bla limitu jew kundizzjonijiet iżda li dan l-impenn tagħna m’għandux ikun abbużat.

Ilkoll naqblu li l-għajnuna li tatna s’issa l-Unjoni Ewropeja biex nistgħu naqdu aħjar l-obbligi tagħna li nħarsu l-ħajja ta’ dawk li jeħtieġu din l-għajnuna ma jeżenta lil ħadd mill-obbligi kbar li hemm ta’ kull pajjiż li jifforma parti mill-Unjoni Ewropeja lejn il-pajjiżi fuq il-fruntiera.

Huwa ukoll fatt, li ħadd ma semma il-lejla fil-Parlament li billi l-materja tal-immigrazzjoni mhiex waħda mir-responsabbiltajiet komuni tal-Unjoni azzjoni dwarha teħtieġ l-unanimita’, jiġifieri li jaqblu l-pajjiżi kollha. U jekk din l-unanimita ma tkunx teżisti ftit li xejn jistgħu jittieħdu deċiżjonijiet .

Saru diversi tentattivi tul is-snin biex jintlaħaq xi forma ta’ ftehim. L-uniku pass li kien hemm qbil dwaru kien illi jgħin min irid, fuq bażi volontarja. Fuq it-TVM2 David Casa nhar il-Ħadd qal li kienu 4 biss il-pajjiżi li offrew l-għajnuna, liema għajnuna issarfet filli dawn ħadu madwar 700 immigrant f’pajjiżhom. Numru ferm żgħir li nqabeż anke mill-għajnuna li tatna l-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika.

Huwa f’dan il-kuntest li wieħed irid jiċcara li l-konflitt ta’ Malta mhux mal-Unjoni Ewropeja iżda mal-Kapijiet tal-Gvern li miġbura flimkien fil-Kunsill Ewropew jieħdu id-deċiżjonijiet li l-Kummissjoni tkun teħtieġ li timplimenta.  Għaxra mit-28 Gvern ta’ pajjiżi fil-UE huma immexxija minn Prim Ministri Soċjalisti, 13 minn Prim Ministri ġejjin mill-Partit Popolari. Id-diversita’ ta’ opinjonijiet hi kbira għax ilkoll kemm huma jridu jirrispondu għal opinjoni pubblika kritika f’pajjiżhom.

Kollox ser idur fuq il-kapaċita ta’ Herman van Rompuy President tal-Kunsill li iktar kmieni din is-sena kien hawn Malta u indirizza l-Parlament Malti. Van Rompuy għandu l-fama ta’ consensus builder u l-probabbilta’ li l-problema tispiċċa f’ħoġru.

F’Ġunju li għadda lill-Parlament kien qallu “I am fully aware of Malta’s concerns.”  Jekk minn dan l-għarfien jirnexxilux iwassal għal soluzzjoni iżda għad irridu naraw.

 

Sharing our responsibilities

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The Lampedusa tragedy was a tragedy waiting to happen. .

Human persons in need of help have been on our doorstep, Europe’s doorstep. The help they sought was not available.

Malta has a government which belongs to that family of political parties, the socialist family, which describes itself as being the champion of the vulnerable and the downtrodden. In migration policy, in just seven months, the Labour Party led government in Malta has failed miserably in living up to its core values.

At this point in time none are more vulnerable than migrants fleeing persecution: in particular Somalis and Eritreans who account for the vast majority of migrants at this doorstep of Europe. The Labour Party in Government is not interested in their plight. It is more interested in a populist discourse to impress its hangers-on. Labour’s populism has diluted its core values  beyond recognition.

Labour’s push-back policy was not implemented due to the timely intervention of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Those who think that  Joseph Muscat’s pushback policy was an exercise in bluff would do well to remember that  when still Leader of the Opposition Joseph Muscat had made statements on the need to suspend Malta’s international obligations if faced with large numbers of boat-people.

Many crocodile tears are currently being shed by those who in the past weeks advocated a hard-line inhumane attitude. Those who advocated push-backs are apparently shocked by what has happened.

Are they?

When we criticise the European Union for tackling immigration inappropriately we are also criticising ourselves as since May 2004 Malta and the Maltese are an integral part of the European Union. Malta forms part of each and every decision-taking structure within the European Union. Together with all the other member states Malta participates whenever a decision is taken.

The European Union needs a common migration policy which recognises that each and every refugee within its borders is its responsibility. The border states like Malta, Italy, Spain, Greece and Cyprus are shouldering a disproportionate responsibility which must be shared by all  members states.

So far, in the struggle between life and death the European Union (Malta included) has not opted to give adequate assistance to the living. As a result we are collectively responsible for the Lampedusa deaths. It is useless shedding tears for the dead if we did not respect them when they were still alive.

The Lampedusa tragedy was no accident. It is the direct consequence of the fact that on migration there is still a free for all in the European Union. A common policy is required to give flesh to practical solidarity and bury once and for all the culture of indifference.

The Greens in Europe are all in favour of responsibility sharing. That is, the recognition by European Union institutions that once a migrant crosses the EU borders he is its responsibility. Common borders are not just a tool for the payment of customs duties. A humanitarian migration policy is a must in every corner of the European Union. Crossing the border into the European Union should mean moving into an area which respects every human person, with no exceptions being permitted.

A first step would be amending what is known as the Dublin Convention such that the arrival of a migrant within any of the member states would not signify any more that he is restricted to remain in the country of arrival. Such an amendment to the Dublin Convention would facilitate the movement of migrants within the European Union and, consequently, their applying for refugee status, if this is applicable,  within any one of the member states.

This is the official policy of the European Green Party to which policy Alternattiva Demokratika has contributed considerably through constructive engagement with our European partners. The Greens in Europe are the only European Political Party which has fully appreciated the situation which EU border states are facing. Without any stamping of feet or smelling “pushover” coffee the European Green Party is the foremost proposer and supporter of an EU which shoulders its responsibilities through a policy of migration responsibility sharing.

The others just stamp their feet and indulge in inconsequential rhetoric interspaced with crocodile tears.

It is about time that the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party accept that their approach to migration has failed. They should take a leaf from the policy book of the European Greens and seek to convince their partners in the European Union of the need to share responsibility for migration with the border states.

Whether the Lampedusa tragedy will serve as a wake-up call is still to be seen. The comments from Jose Barroso and Cecilia Malmström at Lampedusa on Wednesday are good indications.

Well Muscat can smell that coffee now.

As published in The Times of Malta, Saturday 12 October 2013