Malta has appealed to the European Union to immediately launch a humanitarian mission to Libya to avoid a "double disaster" brought on by the Libyan migration crisis in combination with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Maltese Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo, in a video address on Facebook on Monday evening, said Maltese government was urging the EU to provide at least 100 million euros in food, aid, medicine and medical equipment to Libya.
Bartolo stressed that this had to happen sooner rather than later, highlighting that an impending disaster - caused by the reality of migrants fleeing Libya combined with the closure of ports in Malta and Italy - was on the horizon.
"The Libyan conflict had been ongoing for years, and the coronavirus has led to a significant deterioration in the situation." The Maltese Foreign Minister said.
"Detention camps are full, and, according to credible reports, thousands of migrants are fleeing or have been given permission to leave the camps. This provides all the ingredients for a major humanitarian disaster." He said.
The Foreign Minister added that the only way to prevent such a humanitarian disaster from happening is by an EU humanitarian mission in Libya in order to provide medical provisions to Libyans and migrants.
Bartolo underlined that this would provide migrants with an incentive to remain in Libya instead of resorting to the desperate measure of risking their lives in the Mediterranean Sea.
He also criticized the EU, saying the mission had to be put in place imminently and had to be substantial, saying Malta is ready to play its part, but it had to be made clear that a challenge on a European dimension requires an EU-level reaction.
The Maltese Foreign Minister's message to Europe comes as more migrants are departing Libya's shores and as the situation risks developing into a humanitarian crisis as Malta and Italy have declared their ports shut to migrant arrivals in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.