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‘Saddened’ MP to propose immigration committee

A “deeply saddened” Labour MP Marlene Farrugia is planning to present a Private Member’s motion to set up a parliamentary committee on immigration.

“I feel our Parliament should seek a consensual approach on this issue based on a common understanding of what constitutes our national interest,” she said, adding that the committee should include all interested parties. I was against the repatriation of Eritreans in 2002 and I would be against similar actions today,” she told Times of Malta, a day after Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s plans to deport migrants to Libya were foiled by the European Court of Human Rights.

“The events that happened yesterday provoked in me deep sadness. I am saddened particularly by the fact that our Government had to contemplate the possibility of resorting to such drastic measures in view of the ineffectual actions that had been taken over the past 10 years,” she added.

Dr Farrugia was not the only person from the Labour Party side perturbed by what happened on Tuesday. Government sources told Times of Malta there was strong internal criticism from a number of Cabinet members and members of Labour’s parliamentary group.

MEP candidate Cyrus Engerer was also uncomfortable with the decision and took to Facebook to say he had a “sleepless night... feeling sad”.

But when contacted, many chose to stand by their leader and play down the fact that Dr Muscat had prepared two planes to repatriate dozens of Somalis within hours of their arrival. MP Deborah Schembri said the Government had not taken a decision to send migrants to Libya and had simply said it was “considering various options” – something she did not mind.

Asked whether she would have felt uncomfortable with her Government had the migrants been sent back, she said: “I would have definitely needed to see what adequate safeguards there would have been. That would make a big difference.”

Mr Engerer said he agreed that Malta should be “extremely strong” with EU politicians “but we must show solidarity with those who are suffering”.

“I agree with the Prime Minister’s position of assessing various options – not illegal ones but ones that respect international law – including the use of the veto abroad to make Malta’s voice heard,” he said.

“On the other hand, I believe we should respect human rights. We are known for our hospitality and values. The least we could do is stop our racist comments.”

Asked if he felt uncomfortable with the Government’s position, Mr Engerer said he was very comfortable with a government that did not say yes to everything “but stands up to be counted”.

However, he added: “When you’re in a party there are things you agree with and things you might not. No two people will agree 100 per cent all the time.

The difference is that when you don’t agree on anything, the door is open and Dr Muscat listens,” he said.

Former Prime Minister Alfred Sant said: “I think that Malta had every right to defend its national interest.”

Asked if the option proposed by Dr Muscat breached international law, he said: “That’s a moot point because it is subject to legal interpretation.”

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