Refugees in Malta: all's well that ends well?

The refugees who spent the last few weeks waiting on rescue ships off Malta's coast were able to disembark on Wednesday. From there they will be distributed to eight EU states. But for many commentators the affair is far from over.

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Avvenire (IT) /

Hostages of a crippled Europe

The happy ending can hardly conceal the fact that the EU has utterly failed on this issue, Avvenire stresses:

“No matter what view you take or which strategy you believe is best for migration, it's unacceptable to hold dozens of desperate people, including women and children, as hostages over several days. It's unacceptable for the dignity of these people and the dignity of Europe itself that it plunges into a crisis every time a humanitarian problem arises that calls for a collaborative solution.”

The Malta Independent (MT) /

Push through distribution of refugees by veto

Malta and the other southern EU states must finally up the pressure for an acceptable solution, The Malta Independent demands:

“They are permanent, recurring situations that need to be addressed with permanent 'responsibility-sharing' measures on an EU-wide level because it must be understood that the migrants we are speaking of are not headed for Malta, Italy or Spain in particular - they are headed for the wider European Union where they believe they will be given refuge. ... Why not kick the EU where it counts? That would be at EU level where Malta, and perhaps other frontier member states, can finally wield its veto power around the negotiating table and demand solidarity and burden sharing or no deal on other things.”

Savon Sanomat (FI) /

Reception centres urgently needed

The EU must finally implement the measures it passed long ago, Savon Sanomat urges:

“A sustainable EU migration policy must avoid encouraging desperate people to board the traffickers' rickety boats. ... The right decision was taken at the EU summit in June, namely to set up reception centres both in the member states and outside the EU. ... To stop the human trafficking trade, these centres should be established on the south side of the Mediterranean rather than in the north. However, a standardised reception procedure will be needed there. Given the grave human rights situation in the North African crisis states, these centres should be administered by the EU.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Fears of setting a precedent

Europe has completely lost its respect for human life, writer and journalist Paolo Di Stefano comments indignantly in Corriere della Sera:

“For weeks we have watched this disgusting spectacle unfold in which 49 lives have been reduced to an international exchange of blows, to shuffling debt, to numerical calculations and diplomatic caution and concern about 'not setting a precedent'. Saving the poor people fleeing wars and misery in their own countries would set an unpardonable precedent for the individual European states that have just celebrated Christmas, New Year and the Epiphany, because saving one person could mean having to save many in the future - and no one wants to take responsibility at the moment. So it's better not to save anyone than to save too many.”

The Malta Independent (MT) /

Hypocritical Christians know no humanity

The Malta Independent is also outraged:

“Enough is enough and this is not the time to play around with precedents. Malta will not lose its stated position internationally if it takes these 49 in. On the contrary, its battered international name might be enhanced if it were to show more humanity. The most obscene juxtaposition these past days were the many Epiphany re-enactments carried out in Catholic Malta while these 49 were battling waves and the cold just a short distance from Malta’s shores, enough to make one of the unfortunates plunge into the sea in desperation to try and reach Malta.”

Público (PT) /

The far right has already won

For Público the political struggle over the fate of the refugees speaks volumes:

“Malta's prime minister, Joseph Muscat, made it clear on Sunday that the country doesn't want to set a precedent by allowing these ships to dock in its ports. ... Muscat has been leader of the social democratic Malta Labour Party (which belongs to the socialist family of the European Parliament) for ten years; it's not a far-right party. But in this Europe where the far right is growing stronger and swallowing up the traditional parties that once shared humanist values, the panic over the rise of the far right has made the other parties themselves shift further to the right, including Muscat's. There is no need to wait for the European elections: by paralysing Europe and conquering its consciousness, the far right has already won.”