Migrants disembark the P21 Armed Forces of Malta vessel at the Armed Forces of Malta maritime base at Hay Wharf, in Floriana, Malta, July 7, 2019 | Photo: EPA/DOMENIC AQUILINA
Migrants disembark the P21 Armed Forces of Malta vessel at the Armed Forces of Malta maritime base at Hay Wharf, in Floriana, Malta, July 7, 2019 | Photo: EPA/DOMENIC AQUILINA

Malta is defending its decision to close its ports to migrants during the coronavirus pandemic, stating that landings can resume once the situation has improved.

The foreign minister of the Maltese Labour government, Evarist Bartolo, on Monday defended the decision to close the country's ports not only to passengers, but also to migrants who have been rescued at sea, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Bartolo added that rescue operations and landings can resume once the epidemic has improved, stressing however that Europe has promised a lot but done very little so far. 

Maltese official says Italian policies have worsened situation 

"Out of the 21,000 migrants who have reached Malta since 2005, only 1,700 were relocated in the EU, a little over half of the 3,300 welcomed by the Obama administration", said Bartolo on the transfer of migrants to EU member states. 

Speaking during question time in parliament, Bartolo added that Italy's decision to close its ports had made the situation worse and denounced the "attempt of the extreme right to exploit" current circumstances. 

"It looks like, along with the hunting season, that of racism has also opened", he said. 

Malta requests again humanitarian mission in Libya 

Bartolo responded to European criticism over the government's decision to close its ports to migrants: "Countries like Belgium and the Netherlands have also closed their borders, with the only difference that they don't have a maritime border."

Speaking about the situation in Libya, the minister repeated a request to the EU for a mission that brings 100 million euros to the 900,000 migrants who are in the country and who were also forced to flee because they feared the pandemic. 
 

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