The Italian home affairs minister Matteo Salvini, has made it clear that Italy would be adopting a substantially stricter position on Malta than it ever has.
“The Good Lord put Malta closer to African shores than Sicily,” said Matteo Salvini. “Malta cannot always say ‘no’ to any request to intervene.”
In reaction, the Maltese government has as of yet taken a cautious, diplomatic tone, reason most likely being that it does not want to create tensions with its big sister to the north.
“Malta adheres to all its obligations at all times. With regards to search and rescue, Malta acts in accordance to the international conventions that apply. Malta will continue to respect these conventions with respect to the safety of life at sea, as happened in this latest case and indeed in each case.”
UPDATE #1 [10/06/2018] :
A diplomatic standoff between two EU allies has initiated.
Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini has closed down ports. This means that Italy has refused to let an NGO ship carrying more than 600 migrants to enter any of its ports. Salvini is calling Valletta the closest port to the salvage and hence should assume responsibility.
The Maltese government has as of yet refrained from accepting and has insisted that since the operation was coordinated from Rome, then Italy should be responsible.
“Malta is neither the competent nor the coordinating authority in this case. Malta will observe prevailing laws” ~ Malta
Contrastingly, the letter sent by Salvini to the Maltese government earlier in the week describes Valletta as “the most secure port”, according to Corriere Della Sera
Images: Al-Jazeera / TheLocalIT / Malta Independent
UPDATE #2 [11/06/2018]:
Mayors from Palermo, Naples, Messina and Reggio Calabria have defied Salvini, said they will always be willing to accept rescue boats who have saved lives. They’re being stopped by the Guardia Costiera under government’s control. (“Merely carrying out the people’s wish” right?)
UPDATE #3 [11/06/2018]:
Pedro Sanchez, Spain’s new Prime Minister, has now offered to take in the migrant’s ship after Italy and Malta did not allow the ship to dock. “It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people, to comply with our human rights obligations,” said Sanchez’s office.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat thanked Mr. Sanchez , and insisted that talks are required to make sure similar incidents do not occur in the future