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What are we doing? - David Mercieca

The whole migrant and refugee issue has gone on for far too long and at this point as a Maltese teenage citizen my heart aches not only for what my country is going through but even more for what my country is doing in response to it.

Till 2014, I was satisfied with how my country was reacting to the crisis but now, I just sit at my desk and cry as soon as I see the same headline over and over again: “300 migrants left adrift in between Malta and Italy”, with none of the countries bothering to help out.

To be fair, Malta did host a migration summit recently and we did get something out of it: a statue that stands in front of the Auberge de Castille, which the Prime Minister can smile upon all day.

Truth be told, I never understood the whole crisis until I got to experience itfirst hand, by living and integrating with refugees and migrants in Malta and getting to listen to their stories and experiences. My understanding of the crisis, however, went to a new level after having the opportunity to board the Sea-Watch ship, which is being held in Malta without any legal or valid reason.

Most of you should have heard about this, even if it was in a newspaper headline that you just skipped over.

We have chosen to create a horrendous ripple-effect that is currently drowning innocent people

Along with others from various organisations, I got the opportunity to experience what it actually feels like to be on board such a ship.

We got onto the ship’s main area, the half-deck which can hold up to a maximum of 300 people.

I noticed how well the ship was taken care of and could not understand how it could ever fail to meet with the safety and sanitary requirements, were those the reason it was being held in Malta.

It has great facilities, and I was surprised how such a rescue ship would be equipped with its own medical centre that has equipment such as an ECG machine. We also got to see the ‘recovery’ rooms in which migrant women and children sleep.

But this article is not about the Sea-Watch but about my pain after hearing the crew’s stories, my anguish at the fact that the Maltese authorities are withholding a ship from leaving its ports for no known reason, and my disappointment because we have chosen to create a horrendous ripple-effect that is currently drowning innocent people. 

I understand that this whole migrant crisis is an issue, but it shouldn’t be.

It’s easier said than done but how can we sleep knowing that because we didn’t take action to get this ship back to sea, lives were lost.

The crew said that while they’d love to have Malta’s cooperation, as they have had in the past, all that they are asking now is that they’re allowed to leave and as much as it hurts me to say, I feel that at this moment that is their best option.

I urge those who want to know what it feels like to be on this rescue boat to get in contact with the crew themselves.

 When you walk around on the ship, try and see if you’re not moved by the thought that in the very place where you are standing, a migrant once slept after being saved from sea.

If any government official is reading this, all I ask and call upon you to do is to let this ship leave, so that it can do its job. Good things come to those who wait. Unfortunately time isn’t really on the migrants’ and refugees’ side, so let’s get this ship out back into the Mediterranean where it belongs, so they can start saving lives again.

David Mercieca is sixth form student at United World College of the Adriatic in Italy.

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