The Address | Benghazi – Libya
VALLETTA – Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, stated on Monday that it is “unacceptable” that NGO boats raced to pick up migrants who were not in distress within Libyan waters when the Libya coastguard was preparing to pick them up itself.
Muscat was replying to questions in Parliament after giving a statement on the recent controversy involving 49 migrants picked up by NGOs and eventually disembarked in Malta.
Muscat said the Libyan coastguard, financed and trained mostly by the European Union, was doing good work. According to the UNHCR, it picked up 14,000 people in the past 14 months.
The coast guard, he stressed, should be allowed to work. He had no problem with NGOs helping to rescue persons in distress, supplementing the work of the armed forces. But what he was insisting upon was that everyone should follow the rules.
“There are rules for everyone and we cannot have a race in Libyan waters. Rules have to be observed,” Muscat said.
Muscat also referred to his talks with Prime Minister of the Tripoli-based government, Fayez Al-Sarraj, in Valletta last week, saying they had been very constructive. He said he had stressed the point that ‘drastic improvement’ was needed in the migration centers in Libya.
“Libya needs to step up human rights and conditions in the detention centers,” Muscat said.