Italy’s new hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini has warned that Italy will no longer be “Europe’s refugee camp” as he promised tough action to reduce migrant arrivals and send back those who are already the country.
Reacting to Salvini’s clear warning sent to Brussels and the rest of Europe, the Green Party chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said “Salvini doesn’t care if Malta ends up bearing the brunt of his policies” as he urged the Maltese government to seek new allies.
The Maltese government, the Green Party chairperson said, “should insist and seek out new allies in the EU so that all member states face these challenges together, increase initiatives to help former colonies develop sustainable economies and develop a humane and reasonable common policy on migration based on true cooperation and solidarity.”
Cacopardo added that Salvini “is not interested in a common policy or in discussions on this complex issue” and warned that if Italy starts closing its borders to third country citizens, Malta could witness a huge influx of migrants previously going to Italy.
Three weeks ago, The Shift News reported that migration experts were concerned whether Malta is prepared to deal with a sudden influx of boat arrivals.
Questions sent to the foreign affairs ministry on whether Malta is taking any precautionary measures and whether it would be seeking talks with the new Italian government on migration remain unanswered.
Cacopardo added that the formation of the first populist government in the EU by Salvini’s far-right nationalist La Lega and the populist Movement 5 Stelle could have very serious repercussions on Malta.
“Populist nationalists in government who are not interested in cooperating and discussing difficult challenges and issues with neighbouring countries, including with Malta will exacerbate the challenges countries, especially EU member states and long time friends, Malta and Italy, should face together,” Cacopardo said.
Noting Salvini’s promise to reduce sea arrivals and increase expulsions, Cacopardo said the new Italian government has pledged “to tear to shreds the ‘informal’ agreement that Joseph Muscat and Matteo Renzi had drawn up as a result of which we have not witnessed any arrival of immigrants in Malta over a long period of time.”
Cacopardo said that Maltese NGOs have been pointing out that the reception centres in Safi and Hal Far have been progressively downsized and neglected during the past years and asked Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Minister of Internal Affairs Michael Farrugia whether Malta is ready to handle the possible increase “in the influx of third country citizens at a time when the Spring-Summer season will encourage even more people to take the risk in crossing the Mediterranean.”
A controversial agreement between Italy’s former centre-left government and authorities and militias in Libya has triggered a fall in overall arrivals of some 75 percent since the summer of 2017. But since the start of this year, Italian authorities have registered more than 13,500 arrivals.