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Bah! Humbug! A Happy Christmas to (almost) everyone

A newborn and mother on board a rescue vessel (Photo: Bald Elm)

Two days before Christmas, Malta refused entry to over 300 people stranded at sea. Luckily, Spain intervened and has accepted to take in the asylum seekers rescued by Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms.

Nothing new in this as Malta and Italy (and other European countries) have repeatedly closed their ports to people rescued at sea in these past months. But not only did Malta refuse to take in the rescued migrants, but it also refused to provide provisions to the 311 migrants, including pregnant women, children and babies.

“That’s how the night started at open arms. More than 300 people saved from certain death at sea. No port where to disembark and Malta has refused to give us food it is not Christmas in the Mediterranean. We are in urgent need of provisions,” the Spanish NGO said.

The Armed Forces of Malta apparently could not pass on any food because of the bad weather conditions. But the weather suddenly improved when in act of great generosity, Malta airlifted a two-day old baby.

Rescuing the newborn baby was enough to put the Maltese government’s and our collective conscience at rest. The others can go to hell. After all they’re probably adults and they can take care of themselves out at sea.

A Maltese government spokesperson said the rescue of the infant had gone beyond Malta’s legal obligations, as the migrants were rescued in waters supervised by Libya.

Such generosity deserves to be applauded. Malta has done more than it should and the world should appreciate the great sacrifice this little island made.

Because when it comes to saving people at sea, Malta is too small, too poor and under-resourced.

On any other day, Malta is a country punching above its weight, with a booming economy and in dire need of foreign workers to sustain the most amazing growth rate in Europe.

The Spanish government said the rescue vessel had been allowed to head to Spain “due to the refusal or lack of response from the nearest ports”.

The journey of the rescued human beings will last another five days and by the time they get to Spain not only will this latest episode be forgotten in Malta but our collective conscience will once again be on a high following the Istrina telethon on Boxing Day.

Once again our political and spiritual leaders will be lost for words following yet another record breaking fund raiser. The Maltese are the most generous people on earth they will tell us. Our generosity knows no limits.

Except that it does. Malta is extremely generous when it comes to donating money to the sick and less privileged among us. Malta can also be extremely generous to help poor people in far away lands.

But when people are pleading for help on our doorstep, then its not our responsibility. When it’s about rescuing people fleeing misery, torture and death we find refuge in our legal obligations.

On the other hand Malta is extremely creative when it comes to rescuing desperate billionaires who are seeking a European citizenship. As the birthplace of Edward de Bono, Malta is the world champion in lateral thinking. Malta excels in tearing up the rule book and being trailblazers to make a quick buck. Online gambling, cryptocurrency, blockchain, artificial intelligence… you name it, we’ve got it.

But rescuing 311 human beings? No thanks. It’s not our responsibility. And whoever dares to think otherwise, is quickly reminded what Christmas is all about.

Bah! Humbug! and God bless Malta and its generous people.

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