Malta wants Libya to sign refugee rights convention

Malta wants Libya to sign the Geneva Convention that protects the rights of refugees, according to Foreign Minister Tonio Borg.

The statement is symptomatic of the island’s new relations with Libya after the Gaddafi regime was deposed in a bloody revolution last year.

Libya’s absence from the convention was consistently criticised by human rights groups that also opposed any bilateral arrangement to repatriate immigrants to Libya because their rights were not protected.

Dr Borg said it was in Malta’s interest if Libya signed the convention.

He was speaking at a press conference marking the fourth year of the legislature during which he gave a breakdown of the work done by his ministry last year, which was dominated by the Libya crisis.

The minister said Malta’s diplomatic offices abroad received 1,600 commercial contacts last year. In association with Malta Enterprise, he added, representatives had been appointed in various regions to focus on trade and investment.

The ministry focused on trade promotion in the Gulf and Malta was planning to open an embassy in Kuwait, reciprocating a decision by the Gulf state to open an embassy in Malta.

Malta also opened an embassy in Poland and new consulates in India and Benghazi, Libya.

Reacting to the government’s report, Labour Party foreign affairs spokesman George Vella said the ministry failed to address several aspects of major importance, such as an update on talks with Italy over the continental shelf.

Labour had up to now been cautious, he said, but it could not remain so even because communication published in a decree by the Italian government in March 2010 – Italy had insisted that part of the waters Malta claimed as its own was theirs – had not been answered or denied by the government.

Dr Vella said Parliament was, unfortunately, ignored when it came to foreign policy, pointing out that when the government re-applied to join the Partnership for Peace programme no parliamentary debate took place.

However, in a counter-statement the Nationalist Party described Labour’s foreign policy as devoid of substance and noted that ministers always gave Parliament an update of their visits abroad.

(Source: Times of Malta)

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