Għal darba oħra ……………… Lampedusa

smell the coffee

Żewġ traġedji f’ġimgħa. Fit-tieni waħda kienu protagonisti l-Forzi Armati ta’ Malta li salvaw mal-150 persuna mill-għarqa. Veru li għamlu dmirhom. Imma li jirnexxilek tagħmel dmirek f’ċirkustanzi bħal dawn hu ta’ sodisfazzjon mhux żgħir.

Din id-darba kien pożittiv ukoll l-atteġġjament tal-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat. Hu ta’ sodisfazzjoni li bidel l-attitudni li kien ħa iktar kmieni din is-sena. Nittama li l-ħsara li laħqet saret tibda tissewwa. Dan jista’ jseħħ, iżda jieħu ż-żmien. Dejjem jekk il-bdil ta’ attitudni mhiex biss u sempliċiment bdil ta’ tattika.

Kif kien xieraq il-prijorita’ kienet li jsalvaw in-nies. Imma ġustament ġie emfasizzat li l-Unjoni Ewropeja teħtieġ li tiċċaqlaq.

Sal-lum id-dħul tal-immigranti m’hiex responsabbilta’ tal-Unjoni Ewropeja iżda tal-Istati membri individwali. Dan m’għandux jibqa’ hekk. Għax  l-istati fuq il-fruntiera tan-nofsinnhar tal-Ewropa (Malta, l-Italja, Spanja, l-Greċja u Ċipru) qed jerfgħu piż kbir li lkoll, kif nafu, ma jifilħux għalih.

Ir-responsabbilta’ għall-immigranti għandha tintrefa’ mill-Unjoni Ewropeja kollha, f’isem u għan-nom tal-istati membri kollha. Għax dak li jiġri mill-fruntiera l-ġewwa hu responsabbilta’ ta’ kulħadd, inkluż tagħna l-Maltin. Jiġifieri hu meħtieg li r-responsabbilta’ li tatna l-ġografija jgħinuna nerfgħuha.( Il-fruntiera mhiex importanti biss biex jinġabar dak dovut għad-dwana.)

Biex dan iseħħ hemm bżonn li jinbidlu r-regolamenti tal-Unjoni Ewropea magħrufin bħala Dublin II (magħrufa ukoll bħala l-Konvenzjoni ta’ Dublin). It-tibdil meħtieġ jagħmilha possibli li immigranti jiċċaqalqu mill-pajjiż fejn jaslu għal pajjiż ieħor fejn tkun tista’ tiġi ipproċessata t-talba tagħhom għal status ta’ refuġjat.

Alternattiva Demokratika ilha snin li ikkonvinċiet lill-partiti l-Ħodor Ewropej li din hi t-triq il-quddiem: triq li permezz tagħha r-responsabbilta’ li illum qed terfa’ Malta u l-istati l-oħra fuq il-fruntiera tan-nofsinnhar tal-Ewropa tibda  tintrefa’ minn kulhadd flimkien.

Imma mhux kulħadd jaqbel ma dan. Il-Partiti l-oħra fl-Ewropa s’issa ma qablux ma dan.

Il-Ġermanja, per eżempju hu wieħed minn 24 pajjiż fl-Unjoni Ewropeja li ma jridx jibdel l-affarijiet. Jippreferi  li d-deċiżjonijiet dwar kemm il-pajjiż jieħu refuġjati joħodhom hu. Fil-fatt fil-Ġermanja matul is-sena li qegħdin fiha ser ikunu ġew aċċettati 100,000 refuġjat.  Punt interessanti fl-aħbarijiet fi tmiem il-ġimgħa kien dak li intqal minn Katrin Göring-Eckardt co-leader ġdida tal-Ħodor Ġermaniżi li indikat li biex  id-diskussjonijiet dwar il-formazzjoni ta’ Gvern ġdid Ġermaniż bejn id-Demokristjani u l-Ħodor jipproċedu huwa essenzjali (fost ħafna affarijiet oħra) li jkun hemm tibdil fil-posizzjoni dwar l-immigrazzjoni attwalment f’idejn il-Ministru tal-Intern Hans  Peter Friedrich, allejat lemini ta’ Angela Merkel mis-CSU tal-Bavaria. (ara New York Times  tal-11 t’Ottubru 2013 : Sinking of Migrant Boat off Italy complicates politics in Germany).

Fid-dawl ta’ dan hu ċar li l-uġiegħ ta’ ras ta’ Joseph Muscat qabel ma jikkonvinċi lill-istituzzjonijiet Ewopej hi biex jikkonvinċi lil sħabu fil-partiti Soċjalisti Ewropej li minn fosthom hemm 10 Prim Ministri.  Jekk dawn jagħtuh l-appoġġ ikun iktar faċli li naslu bħala pajjiż. Imma ħlief Enrico Letta, Prim Ministru tal-Italja, s’issa l-ebda kap ta’ Gvern fl-Unjoni Ewropeja għadu ma esprima ruħu.

Ħafna drabi jsir l-iżball li ninsisitu b’qawwa kbira dwar x’għandha tagħmel l-Ewropa mingħajr ma nirrealizzaw li l-Ewropa hi aħna ukoll, kif ukoll dawk ta’ madwarna.

Alternattiva Demokratika diġa’ ħadet posizzjoni ċara dwar dan kollu. Għax aħna ukoll parti mill-Ewropa għamilna l-parti tagħna u wittejna t-triq. Wrejna li hu possibli li fuq livell ta’ Unjoni Ewropeja jkun hemm appoġġ biex ir-responsabbilta’ għall-immigranti li illum qed jintrefa minn Malta waħedha tibda jintrefa minn kulħadd. Il-Ħodor Ewropej bdew. Il-Ħodor Ewropej tawna l-appoġġ billi qablu ma ħtieġa ta’ riforma tal-Konvenzjoni ta’ Dublin bħala pass essenzjali biex ir-responsabbilta’ għall-immigranti nerfgħuha flimkien. Dan hu l-uniku mod li bih nistgħu naslu. B’solidarjeta’ ta’ vera.

kif ippubblikat fuq iNews it-Tnejn 14 t’Ottubru 2013

Sharing our responsibilities

lampedusa-letta-e-barroso-contestati

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 

L-interess nazzjonali hu li nwaqqgħu l-ħitan

coatofarms_malta

 

Għandna bżonn inwaqqgħu l-ħitan li jifirduna u nibnu l-pontijiet.

L-iktar materja ovvja u ċara fejn dan hu meħtieġ illum hu dwar l-immigrazzjoni. Diġa hi problema kbira u ilha hekk għal diversi snin. Mhux biss ser tibqa’ iżda wisq nibża’ li ser issir problema ikbar milli hi illum.

In-nuqqas ta’ qbil huwa jekk għandiex dritt li nibgħatu lill-immigranti lura. Punt li jidher li ġie riżolt meta l-Gvern Laburista aċċetta l-ordni tal-Qorti Ewropeja tad-Drittijiet tal-Bniedem fi Strasbourg.

Jekk nitilqu minn dan il-punt u li dwaru issa naqblu lkoll ma naħsibx li baqa’ differenzi għax jidher li ilkoll naqblu fuq diversi affarijiet.

Naqblu li Malta hi vulnerabbli minħabba l-posizzjoni ġeografika tagħha.

Naqblu li m’għandniex riżorsi biex nilqgħu biżżejjed għall-impatti ta’ mewġa kontinwa ta’ immigrazzjoni mil-Libja, mhux biss kif inhi, iżda iktar u iktar jekk tiżdied.

Naqblu li l-għajnuna li ġiet mill-Unjoni Ewropeja matul is-snin, għalkemm m’hiex żgħira, m’hiex biżżejjed u li hemm ħtieġa li tiżdied biex tkun solidarjeta iktar effettiva u li tinħass verament li hi hekk.

Naqblu li wieħed mill-modi l-iktar effettivi ta’ għajnuna li neħtieġu hi li iktar pajjiżi mill-Unjoni Ewropeja jerfgħu l-piż magħna – responsibility sharing – billi jilqgħu f’pajjiżhom numru ikbar milli għamlu sal-lum tal-immigranti li jiġu f’pajjiżna.

Naħseb li naqblu ukoll li l-għajnuna li tista’ tagħti l-Unjoni Ewropeja lill-pajjiżi minn fejn qed joriġinaw l-immigranti tkun l-iktar għajnuna li tħalli effetti fit-tul għax tindirizza l-problema at source.

Nittama li nifhmu li dan kollu ma jiddependix biss mill-kapaċita tal-Gvern li jinnegozja ftehim tajjeb. Jiddependi ukoll mill-pressjonijiet soċjali fis-27 pajjiżi oħra li flimkien magħna jiffurmaw l-Unjoni Ewropeja. Għax l-Unjoni Ewropeja mhix dik jew dawk, hi aħna ukoll.

Nafu li f’diversi pajjiżi tal-Unjoni Ewropeja, anke’ dawk b’politika żviluppata tul is-snin li tilqa’ b’idejha miftuħa r-refuġjati ta’ kull nazzjon u kulur hemm problemi mhux żgħar.  F’uħud minn dawn il-pajjiżi hemm ukoll partiti politiċi li għandhom bħala skop ewlieni tagħhom it-tixrid tal-mibgħeda razzjali.

Għalkemm sforz tal-irjus sħan qed tingħata stampa ħażina tal-qagħda f’Malta nemmen li l-mibgħeda razzjali f’Malta m’għandhiex egħruq fondi.  Il-partiti politiċi għandna l-obbligu li ma nħallux dawn l-egħruq jissaħħu.

Għalhekk li issa iktar minn qatt qabel hu meħtieg li nwaqqgħu l-ħitan u nibnu l-pontijiet. Hemm ħafna oqsma ta’ qbil. Fuqhom nistgħu  nibnu flimkien strateġija nazzjonali dwar l-immigrazzjoni. Pontijiet li jinbnew bid-djalogu u li jwasslu għal kooperazzjoni wiesa’.

Dan hu l-interess nazzjonali.

Human Rights are not disposables

foam_disposables_cups

Human Rights are an essential cornerstone of democratic society. They are an integral and indispensable element of our democratic landscape. They are not disposable. We cannot do without them.

Being a savage blow struck against human rights, Joseph Muscat’s pushback of immigrants to Libya hence strikes at the very core of our democratic credentials.

During Malta’s short 50 year history as a democratic state we have had more than our fair share of political bullies who considered that human rights were shackling their political manoeuvres. We surely do not need any more.

The migration problem is certainly much greater than Malta can possibly handle on its own. Financial assistance from the EU has always been welcome but this can only be a small part of the solution. There are other  essential elements which have to be tackled.

Many EU member states have been reluctant to assist in the resettlement of these refugees. The EU institutions have not been forceful enough in translating solidarity declarations into practical initiatives. Pilot projects, now discontinued, are certainly not enough.

The root causes of the displacement of hundreds of thousands must be appropriately addressed. These include political instability, dictatorial governments and Climate Change impacts. The EU, on its own as well as in conjunction with regional and global institutions could do much more than has been done to date.

On a local level we need to move on from rhetoric to practical political action to tackle this issue of national importance. There is room for close political cooperation between the three political parties. This however must be based on an unconditional respect of human rights. It is the only way to combat the spectre of racism in Malta.

Common sense, solidarity and an end to the culture of indifference should be the foundation stones of a national strategy on immigration. It is the only way forward.

Iċ-Ċajta dwar Dom Mintoff

 

Waqt iż-żjara li l-Prim Ministru Malti u l-Ministru tal-Affarijiet Barranin kellhom f’Ruma kellhom working lunch ma Silvio Berlusconi, Prim Ministru Taljan, li kien akkumpanjat minn Franco Frattini Ministru tal-Affarijiet Barranin.

Kif inhu xieraq f’okkazjonijiet bħal dawn tkellmu dwar diversi affarijiet.

Tkellmu dwar l-immigranti u l-kunċett ta’ “burden sharing“. Kien ikun iktar xieraq kieku tkellmu dwar “responsibility sharing” għax l-immigranti mhux “burden” izda responsabbilta li għandu jerfa’ kulħadd.

Tkellmu dwar il-kumnikazzjoni ta’ Malta mal-grid tal-elettriku fi Sqallija u Berlusconi kien entużjażmat ħafna dwar il-materja. Anke il-predeċessur tiegħu Romano Prodi kien jaqbel. Imma s’issa qatt ma waslu.

Ħadd ma qalilna jekk tkellmux dwar l-enerġija nukleari u jekk hiex l-intenzjoni tal-Gvern Taljan li wieħed mill-impjanti nukleari li Claudio Scaljola Ministru tal-Iżvilupp Ekonomiku ħabbar li jridu jinbnew nhar it-22 ta’ Mejju 2008 hux ser ikun fi Sqallija. F’każ bħal dan Malta għandha l-jedd li tkun involuta fil-proċess tal-EIA li jkun meħtieg li jsir. Iżda dwar dan ħadd ma qalilna xejn.

Imma minn flok qalulna dwar iċ-ċajta ta’ Tonio Borg fuq Dom Mintoff. Kif ukoll li Tonio Borg u Lawrence Gonzi jżommu mal-Inter u mhux mal-Milan !