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Malta will not confirm how many migrants it will take from Italy dispute

Human lives used for 'political interests'

A group of people brought to Malta aboard a migrant rescue vessel in June left for Luxembourg last week as part of a deal to relocate them. Photo: DOI

A group of people brought to Malta aboard a migrant rescue vessel in June left for Luxembourg last week as part of a deal to relocate them. Photo: DOI

The government has not confirmed how many migrants Malta will be taking as Italy plans to relocate 450 migrants, saying “discussions are still under way”.

Last week, the government said Malta had pledged to take in some of the 450 migrants that were stranded at sea due to a diplomatic dispute. In its statement, it did not say how many migrants Malta had agreed to accept

Writing on Facebook, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that Malta and France had each agreed to relocate 50 people.

Read: Malta to help Italy relocate migrants aboard two vessels

Asked to confirm the figure provided by Mr Conte, a spokeswoman for the government said that “discussions on the modus operandi are still under way”.

The relocation exercise, coordinated by Italy, echoes a similar plan announced by Malta in June to relocate the rescued migrants aboard the MV Lifeline.

Nine EU member states, including Italy, had joined that initiative.

During a press conference, Dr Muscat declined to say how many migrants each  State had accepted. He said that the figures could only be determined once passengers were screened, given a chance to apply for asylum and had their status determined.

The government has now informed the Times of Malta that the “exact relocation details will be published once the whole process is completed”.

Aditus director Neil Falzon said the human rights NGO was “encouraged by Malta’s act of solidarity with Italy in accepting the responsibility for some of the rescued migrants”. However, Dr Falzon criticised the Prime Minister for speaking of this gesture in terms of “its political, strategic value”.

Last Sunday, Dr Muscat said the show of solidarity with Italy in taking some of the migrants could prove useful in the future when Malta needed support. His comments showed a “distasteful approach”, Dr Falzon said, adding this confirmed his migration policies were not based on consideration for human lives but “purely political interests”.

The comments “highlighted how human beings were effectively used as pawns by governments in their relations with each other”.

“We urge Dr Muscat to embrace the human dimension of migration by putting human rights and dignity at the centre of all policies and discourse,” Dr Falzon said.

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