Sharing our responsibilities


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

The solidarity challenge

New Deal for Somalia

The boats and dinghies departing from the Libyan coast are a stiff challenge to the solidarity which Malta has traditionally  shown towards all those who required it.

The departures from the Libyan coast are controlled by criminal gangs who are cashing in on the suffering of men, women and children fleeing  from their countries for a multitude of reasons, seeking a better quality of life and fleeing persecution.

The boats and dinghies represent their future hopes. For some it has meant death. Battered by the rough seas some make it to their destination, the Italian mainland. Others end up on our shores.

The number of arrivals is on the rise. There is a limit to what this country can take. But the limit is a physical one as the duty to put solidarity in practice has no limits.

Malta always offered practical solidarity to those in distress as we have always felt that it is our duty to uphold the dignity of all human beings irrespective of their country of origin or race. Offering hospitality is not and should never be conditional on whether others help us in shouldering our responsibilities. We do it as a nation because it is the right thing to do.

There is so much more that Malta could do if we are assisted by our EU partners. So far there has been substantial assistance in monetary terms. This has been utilised to improve Malta’s rescue capabilities as well as in providing decent places where immigrants are housed. But this is certainly not enough.

There has been talk of looking towards the South.  Last Monday Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has also been involved in talks with the Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta as the challenge we face is not just ours, it is a regional one.

The involvement of Libya is not without its problems. Libya, as also emphasisied by Prime Minister Letta on Monday, is not yet a signatory of the Geneva Convention  on the status of refugees. Human Rights, in addition, are not an area with which the Libyan state is familiar yet. Having secure Libyan borders just shifts the problem from the Mediterranean to Libyan soil.

The real solution lies much further south then Libya. It lies in the countries of origin of the boat people whom Malta and Italy have saved from the perils of the sea. Some are Somali, others are from Ethiopia, Eritreia or other countries.

65% of the 1890  boat people arriving in Malta in 2012 were Somali.

The European Union is in fact already acting in this direction. In collaboration with the government of Somalia the EU will shortly be convening an international conference to endorse a New Deal with Somalia that aims to develop a set of key priorities and support the reconstruction of Somalia over the next three years. It is the way that the international community makes good on its promises of support to the Somali people. The healing of the scars resulting from a long civil war takes considerable time.

Through the New Deal for Somalia the EU is assisting the reconstruction of Somalia, an essential prerequisite in creating the infrastructure which is necessary to ensure that all Somali citizens are protected and can partake of an adequate quality of life in their own country. Once the reconstruction of Somalia with EU assistance is in place there will be no further reason for large numbers of Somalis to flee their own country. Some will undoubtedly want to consider returning to take part in the transformation of Somalia, getting it ready to participate as an equal partner in the international family of nations.

Helping Somalia to help herself. This is EU solidarity at its best.

The EU has already helped in training Somali soldiers. It has also invested heavily in maritime security off the Somali coast contributing to a substantial reduction of piracy which has been of international concern for years.

The next steps will necessitate Somalia doing a deal with its global partners to clear its huge financial arrears and put in place international aid programmes to help establish the Somali government’s legitimacy.

The EU has been looking at long term solutions. Unfortunately it did not give sufficient attention to the short term problems which primarily Malta and Italy have been facing. The human suffering generated needs to be addressed immediately.

Malta and Italy should not be left on their own to manage  the impacts which have been generated by migration.  A common strategy to manage the extreme pressures caused by the seasonal increase in the arrival of asylum seekers in Southern Europe is essential  until such time that the long term measures which the EU has initiated in Somalia have the desired effect.

This is the solidarity challenge which the EU is facing. And the EU is not them. It is us as well.

Published in The Times of Malta, 20 July 2013 

The Malta push-back to Eritrea


Well Malta did carry out a push-back. Once upon a time way back in 2002.

Being very eager to be populist the EFA government repatriated 220 Eritrean citizens. These ended up imprisoned and tortured.

You may wish to read through the correspondence between Amnesty International and the then Minister Tonio Borg at the following link:

These are the consequences.

Tonio Borg : lejlet il-vot

Il-Parlament Ewropew għada jivvota dwar jekk in-nomina mill-Gvern Malti ta’ Tonio Borg bħala Kummissarju Ewropew hiex waħda aċċettabbli.

Bl-appoġġ tal-Partit Popolari, l-Konservattivi, l-partiti tal-lemin (inkluż dawk ta’ Bossi u Le Pen) u numru mdaqqas mill-grupp soċjalista probabilment li jkun approvat b’mod partikolari wara d-dikjarazzjoni li iffirma. L-opposizzjoni ġejja mill-Liberali, mill-Ħodor, minn parti mis-Soċjalisti (fuq quddiem MEPs nisa u LGBT) u l-bqija tax-xellug.

Intqal ħafna dwar il-kandidatura ta’ Tonio Borg. Kull min ikkritikah għamel dan mill-ottika tiegħu.

Da parti ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika ikkritikajna n-nomina tiegħu bħala waħda li m’hiex addattata u dan in vista tal-posizzjonijiet politiċi li ħa matul il-karriera politika tiegħu. Hemm politiċi oħra li huma inqas kontroversjali u li ma ħadux posizzjoni ta’ konfront kontra l-gays u kontra d-divorzju . Il-posizzjoni ta’ Tonio Borg favur politika inumana dwar l-immigrazzjoni ġiet manifestat bl-appoġg da parti tiegħu għall-ftehim ta’ Berlusconi ma Gaddafi li bih bagħat l-immigranti lura fil-Libya għas-swat u t-tortura. Ġiet manifestata ukoll meta bagħat lura l-immigranti mill-Eritrea li spiċċaw sparixxew jew ġew ittorturati u dan kif ikkonkludew l-Amnesty International u l-UNHCR.

Filwaqt li hu floku li jingħad li matul il-hearing ta’ tlett siegħat li kellu fil-Parlament Ewropew Tonio Borg wera li kellu konoxxenza tajba tad-dikasteru  assenjat lilu naħseb li jkun għaqli li jkun emfasizzat li fi tlett siegħat ma tistax tħassar dak li tkun għamilt matul karriera politika sħiħa. Tista’ tipprova tispjega imma trid tkun konsistenti. Jekk ma tkunx ma tistax tikkonvinċi.

Matul it-tlett siegħat tal-hearing Tonio Borg impressjona li kien teknikament kompetenti. Iżda diversi li kellhom dubji dwar kemm il-passat hu mera tal-futur baqgħu bid-dubji. Għalhekk talbuh jagħmel dikjarazzjoni.

Id-dikjarazzjoni li Tonio Borg iffirma tiftaħ beraħ l-issue tal-abort. Il-PN tkaża meta MEPs mill-PL ivvutaw favur riżoluzzjoni fil-Parlament Ewropew li kellha referenzi mill-iktar indiretti għall-abort u dan fil-kuntest ta’ għajnuna lill-pajjiżi li qed jiżviluppaw. Kienu l-akkolti ta’ Tonio Borg fil-kampanja ta’ emendi kostituzzjonali dwar l-abort li fetħu l-kanuni. Issa naraw kemm huma lesti li jitkellmu fil-pubbliku dwar id-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Tonio Borg u kemm din tfisser appoġġ inkondizzjonat għall-abort fejn l-Unjoni Ewropea tista’ tagħmel dan.

Bid-dikjarazzjoni li iffirma Tonio Borg issa intrabat pubblikament li jpoġġi l-kuxjenza tiegħu fil-ġemb u jimplimenta dawk ir-rizoluzzjonijiet li ivvutaw favur tagħhom tal-Labour!

Dikjarazzjoni bħal din mhux kulħadd jagħtiha l-istess piz. Għax daqqa ta’ pinna ma tħassarx dak li temmen.

Rocco and the ghosts of Eritreia

In 2004 Rocco Buttiglione was Silvio Berlusconi’s surprise choice for EU Commissioner.  Jose’ Manuel Barroso identified him as suitable for the post of Commissioner designate for Justice, Freedom and Security.

When grilled by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee  Rocco Buttiglione stated that he viewed homosexuality as a sin.  I do not think that Tonio Borg will use the same fundamentalist vocabulary of Rocco Buttiglione. He is however on record during the parliamentary debate on rent reform as being one of those opposing tenancy rights for same sex couples on a level identical to those of heterosexual couples.

A substantial number of MEPs will certainly not be amused. One Rocco is more than enough.

If this was not enough Tonio Borg will have to give account of decisions taken in 2002 on the repatriation of Eritrean asyslum-seekers. They were sent back to be tortured in Eritreia.

A 2009 report published by Amnesty International is entitled “Eritreia: sent home to detention and torture.”

The following extract from page 7 of the said report does not require any comment:

“Malta forcibly returned 230 Eritrean nationals to Eritrea in 2002. They were detained on arrival in Asmara at the Adi Abeto detention centre, accused of betraying their country, and tortured as punishment. With the exception of children, some women, and those over the age of 40, those returned from Malta are believed to remain in incommunicado detention. About 30 of them were able to escape and they fled to Sudan in 2003. Amnesty International was able to collect their testimonies about detention conditions and torture. One escaped detainee said: “There were interrogation rooms and we were being called one at a time, with two guards, one asking the questions, the other doing the beating.” The Government of Malta stated that they had not received “any evidence that any ill-treatment was afforded to the Eritreans repatriated from Malta.” However, by February 2004 they had released all remaining Eritreans to non-custodial hostels to wait for resettlement. In December 2008, Malta and Eritrea agreed to “establish diplomatic relations” with a view to increasing co-operation between the two countries. This has raised concerns that Malta might again consider forcibly returning failed or non-assessed Eritrean asylum seekers.”

Tonio Borg has a lot of explaining to do.

originally published on, Friday 26 October, 2012

Kif tagħmel …………… jagħmlulek

 30 ta’ Diċembru 2009


Naħseb li lkoll kemm aħna konxji li l-klima qiegħda tinbidel. L-is­ta­ġuni ma tafx iżjed meta jibdew jew meta jispiċċaw. Fis-sajf sħana kbira li dejjem iżżid. Xita qawwija f’ħin qasir f’kull żmien tas-sena b’għargħar aktar ta’ spiss. Qegħdin niffaċċjaw estre­mi ta’ temp. Dawn huma wħud mill-indikazzjonijiet li għandna f’Malta li l-klima qiegħda tin­bidel.

F’pajjiżi oħrajn it-temp inbidel ukoll. Insegwu dak li qed jiġri fuq il-televiżjoni, bħall-għargħar riċenti f’Cumbria fit-Tramuntana tal-Ingilterra jew l-urugan Kat­rina li ħarbat l-istat ta’ New Orleans fl-Istati Uniti tal-Amerika fi tmiem Awwissu, 2005. Inkella l-urugani spissi fl-istat Ameri­kan ta’ Florida. Anki fl-Ewropa segwejna każi estremi ta’ temp kemm f’dik li hi temperatura kif ukoll għargħar ikkawżat diret­ta­ment mix-xita inkella mill-faw­ran ta’ xmajjar.

Il-parti l-kbira tax-xjenzjati jaqblu li dan kollu hu prinċi­pal­ment ir-riżultat akkumulat tul is-snin ta’ emissjonijiet mill-ħruq ta’ żjut u faħam biex il-bniedem jipproduċi l-enerġija, kif ukoll mit-trasport u minn proċessi industrijali. Naqsu wkoll il-foresti f’kull parti tad-dinja biex jittieħed l-injam tagħ­hom għall-ħatab, għall-bini ta’ djar jew għal xi użu ieħor bħall-bini tax-xwieni fi żminijiet oħ­rajn. Il-foresti naqsu wkoll biex żdiedet l-art għall-agrikoltura.

B’hekk id-dinja qiegħda żżomm is-sħana tax-xemx bħal f’serra bir-riżultat li t-tem­pe­ra­tura madwarna qiegħda togħla ftit ftit. Dan iżda ma jseħħx bl-istess mod kullimkien. Ix-xjen­zati huma tal-opinjoni li jekk it-temperatura taqbeż dik tal-bidu taż-żmien industrijali b’aktar minn 2 gradi Celsius, iseħħu tibdiliet kbar fil-klima. Tibdiliet li ħdejhom dak li seħħ s’issa jitqies bħala insinjifikanti. Rap­preżentanti ta’ gżejjer kemm fil-Paċifiku kif ukoll fil-Karibew qegħ­din jinsistu li l-limitu mas­simu għandu jkun 1.5 gradi Celsius fuq it-temperatura taż-żmien pre-industrijali. Dan qegħdin jgħiduh għax huma diġà qegħdin iħossu wieħed mill-effetti tal-bidla fil-klima. Il-livell tal-baħar qed jogħla u dawk li joqogħdu f’uħud minn dawn il-ġżejjer diġà qed ikoll­hom idabbru rashom. L-ewwel refuġjati tal-klima fil-fatt kienu r-residenti tal-gżejjer Carteret fil-Papua New Guinea liema gżejjer diġà bdew jiġu mgħot­tijin bl-ilma baħar. Sal-2015, hu kkalkolat li dawn il-gżejjer ikunu mgħarrqin kompletament bħala riżultat tal-bdil gradwali fil-livell tal-baħar.

Fl-Afrika wkoll it-temp inbidel drastikament. F’uħud mill-pajjiżi Afrikani bħas-Somalja, l-Etjopja u l-Eritrea hemm nixfa kbira u dan bħala riżultat ta’ nuqqas ta’ xita fuq perjodu twil ta’ żmien. Bħala riżultat ta’ dan, l-agrikoltura mhix tirrendi u n-nies m’għandhiex x’tiekol. Iffaċ­ċati b’dan, in-nies qegħdin jitil­qu minn dawn il-pajjiżi u qegħ­din jemigraw lejn pajjiżi oħrajn. Jaslu sal-Libja jew xi pajjiż ieħor bħall-Marokk u mbagħad jaq­smu lejn l-Ewropa b’numru minn­hom jispiċċaw Malta. Numru mhux żgħir minn dawn l-immigranti li f’pajjiżna nsej­ħul­hom “immigranti illegali” huma vittmi tal-bidla fil-klima.

Il-bidla fil-klima lilna f’Malta tista’ teffettwana b’mod dras­ti­ku wkoll u dan fi żmien mhux wisq ’il bogħod. In-nuqqas ta’ xita u l-għoli tal-livell tal-baħar se jkollhom effett dirett fuq l-agrikultura. L-ilma tal-pjan na­qas sewwa kemm fil-kwantità kif ukoll fil-kwalità. Dan riżultat tal-‘boreholes’, kemm dawk legali kif ukoll dawk illegali. Jekk ikun baqa’ ilma tal-pjan, dan se jkompli jiġi mgħarraq għax ikun diġà sar salmastru hekk kif il-livell tal-baħar jogħla ftit ftit. L-ilma ma jkunx iżjed tajjeb biex jintuża la għax-xorb, la għat-tisqija u lanqas għall-industrija għax ikun wisq mie­laħ. Ikun jeħtieg li jiġi trattat bir-‘reverse osmosis’ jew xi pro­ċess ieħor li jkollu bżonn ħafna enerġija. Bla ilma, kif nafu, ma jista’ jsir xejn.

Dakinhar li pajjiżna jirrealizza li ġie wiċċ imbwiċċ ma’ din il-prob­lema, dawk minna li jkunu għadhom jgħixu hawn, ikunu fl-istess pożizzjoni ta’ dawn l-“im­migranti illegali”, refuġjati tal-klima huma wkoll u jibdew ifittxu x’imkien ieħor fejn jistgħu jgħixu.

Tgħid ikunu lesti li jaċċettaw li jkunu trattati bħall-immigranti li jaslu Malta illum: li jkunu msakkrin, bl-għassa u b’deten­zjo­ni ta’ 18-il xahar imposta fuq­hom mingħajr ma qatt għamlu ħsara lil ħadd?

Wara kollox mhux kif tagħ­mel jagħmlulek?