Malta Prime Minister Robert Abela surprise visit to Tripoli evoked keen attention of all parties concerned with the ongoing migrant crisis, related to Libyan conflict, especially in view of the Memorandum of understanding signed on May 28 in the Libyan capital between the head of Maltese government and chair of Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj. The content of document has not been revealed yet, however the European Commission has already expressed the support of attempts of the archipelago state to deal with persisting migrant flows in a country of transit.
“When it comes to migration and related challenges in general, we share the determination expressed by Malta to address migration in a comprehensive way, supporting actions in countries of origin and transit” the spokesperson of the European Commission said, responding to the Africa Diplomatic Magazine request of reaction.
During the visit the Maltese head of government reiterated the firm position on the need to address and defeat the human trafficking in Africa, underlining that Malta is facing unprecedented and disproportionate flows of irregular migratiion, on the scale it has no capacity to deal with alone. In spite of the repeated calls for solidarity to the European partners, there was hardly any response, especially recently, in the pandmeic context.
Previously on multiple occasions Valletta has been requesting the EU member-states for an adequate funding to secure Libyan borders, and also equal redistribution across Europe of constantly arriving irregular migrants. However in the actual context of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, causing the European governments to close borders, Malta demands became increasingly difficult to fulfil. In the meantime the summer departures from Libya and arrivals have continued, causing mounting pressure on Valletta, but also the other Mediterranean countries like Spain, and Italy, facing almost weekly disembarkments.
Abela, as the preceding heads of Maltese government, has underlined that is spite of its limited resources, Valletta has always respected its international obligations on a humanitarian grounds. In the obvious absence of relevant resources, the successive governments have been looking for the EU support to resolve the increasing problem of human trafficking in Africa. Malta has been asking for stronger Tripoli GNA controls on human trafficking networks.
The Libyan southern border, and costal line should be focus of monitoring operation to counter human trafficking, rather than focusing on the consequences of these criminal activities, to avoid risky Mediterranean Sea crossing. Recently various reports of NGOs indicated there are more than a half a million migrants on Libyan territory, in search of possibility to reach the European coasts. However not all of them are from sub-Saharan Africa, some come from Asian countries, as distant as Bangladesh.
Valletta and Tripoli will be setting up joint coordination units the to deal with the migration crisis, according to MaltaToday. Sources close to the talks indicated that the coordination units would ensure regular communication between Maltese government and GNA when addressing migrant rescues in the Mediterranean.
Al-Sarraj and Abela discussed Operation IRINI, and agreed that this should consider both Malta and Libya’s reservations about mission.
Meetings were held with al-Sarraj, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Siala and Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga, in presence of the heads of the Libyan coast guard and navy. Abela led the delegation of Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri and OPM head of secretariat Clyde Caruana.
Image above: courtesy of Malta Archbishop Charles Scicluna