UPDATED: Since March, Libya stopped 5,000 immigrants from coming to Malta – Minister Bartolo
Minister for Foreign Affairs Evarist Bartolo stated that as a result of strong relations built in recent months between Malta and Libya, since March the Libyan authorities have stopped some 5,000 migrants from crossing the Mediterranean, with a chance of ending up in Malta.
“Over 15 years the Europeans have only taken off our hands 8% of those who came to Malta, and therefore the solution is not one where they first come to Malta, after which we see how to relocate them. It would be best for them not to come at all, and it is therefore important that they be kept in Libya.”
Minister Bartolo added that the migrants should be kept in decent conditions in Libya, and those not entitled to political asylum should be repatriated.
During a media conference on the budget for next year, Minister Bartolo spoke about the need for the country to continue to widen its diplomatic presence, and announced plans to open new embassies in Ethiopia and Brazil in order to continue to expand trade with the rest of the world.
Questioned about the reopening of the Maltese Embassy in Libya, Minister Bartolo said the Government is following closely the situation in the country.
Whilst describing his Ministry as one for the affairs of Maltese and Gozitans, as it works to safeguard the interests of the people in Malta and abroad, Minister Bartolo highlighted that at the start of the pandemic he had worked to bring back to Malta over 1,600 persons who reside locally. The Minister added that another effort centred on the acquisition of needed medical equipment in the fight against Covid-19.
Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi refered to the package of over 2.25 billion euro in European funds which Malta managed to negotiate with the European Union for the next seven years.
Dr Zrinzo Azzopardi stated that these funds will be used, among others, so that the country will continue to face the challenges brought about by the pandemic, including through supporting the scheme for wage supplements for workers.
The Parliamentary Secretary explained that other funds will be dedicated towards a better environment, and in this context referred to the project for passenger and merchant vessels to use electric power instead of fuel when they berth in Grand Harbour.