[WATCH] Italian Five Star MPs walk out in protest during address of Maltese President

Regional MPs walk out of Sicilian assembly during address of Maltese President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca 

Marie Louise Coleiro Preca
Marie Louise Coleiro Preca

Regional MPs from the populist governing party Five Star Movement (M5S) carried out a mass walk-out in protest at the President of Malta, when Marie-Louise Coleiro addressed the Sicilian Assembly.

The regional MPs of Sicily left the plenary hall as soon as Marie Louise Coleiro Preca was given the floor by Gianfranco Miccichè, president of the Sicilian regional assembly.

“The decision was taken to protest Malta’s behaviour towards migrants,” a group of M5S MPs were quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA.

“Malta’s actions in the Aquarius incident is unacceptable and MS5 cannot ignore this before the President of Malta,” the MPs said.

The M5S is the larger group in the Sicilian assembly, with some 20 MPs from 70.

“Malta and all of Europe should take note that we are not ready to tolerate their indifference on the delicate subject of human life which often is Sicily’s toll to bear, which commitment it does not renege, but demands maximum collaboration.”

But the gesture was not appreciated by some of the MPs who remained in the Sala d'Ercole. Those who walked out, it was pointed out, were not Sicilians.Tony Rizzotto, from the far-right Lega, did not walk out with them.

Partit Demokratiku said in a statement it suported the President of the Republic Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca "in her national initiative to propagate the value of solidarity and denounces the unfriendly welcome by a few Sicilian MPs when she officially addressed the Sicilian Assembly. Malta has always honoured its international responsibilities, whilst at the same time empathizing with and supporting migrants."

The PD said the EU was expected to focus efforts on resolving the southern Mediterranean migration predicament "once and for all".

"If Europe really upholds its European value, all member states should all burden share proportionately the problems that both Malta and Italy are facing. It is high time that the plans detailed by EU are implemented."

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Tuesday evening that he had discussed the latest developments in the Mediterranean with French President Emmanuel Macron.

In a tweet, the Prime Minister said that the two countries’ policies in the sector converged, and that the two leaders had agreed to work together going forward.

The latest development comes after France accused Italy’s new government of cynicism and irresponsibility.

At roughly 8pm on Tuesday Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) tweeted that all the rescued migrants that were to be transferred to the Italian Navy were safely on board its vessels, leaving 106 people left on board - 45 men, 51 women and 10 children. 

"While this bring an end to the ordeal of 629 rescued people at sea, it should not set a precedent for future disembarkations in the Mediterranean," tweeted the organisation. 

Shortly after 10pm Euronews journalist Anelise Borges, who is currently onboard the Aquarius, tweeted that the vessel was now moving and on its way to Spain. 

Macron had earlier denounced the block on the Aquarius, a rescue vessel that is the subject of a diplomatic dispute between Malta and Italy, insisting that Italy should have taken the migrants in.

The Aquarius was carrying 629 migrants rescued within the Libyan search and rescue region, making Lampedusa its nearest safe port. The Italian government however refused to grant the vessel access to any of its ports.

Malta insisted that Italy was legally obliged to take the vessel in and refused to allow the vessel into Malta, before Spain ultimately stepped in and agreed to take in the Aquarius.

In comments to Italian journalists, Italy's Home Affairs minister Matteo Salvini accused Malta of acting irresponsible. The leader of the far-right Lega also hit back at both France and Spain, after both countries criticised Italy's rejection of the Aquarius.

"Spain wants to report us, France says I'm 'sickening'. I want to work serenely with all, but with one principle: Italians first," tweeted Salvini.

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