The Bishops of Malta have asked the Vatican to “intervene” with the EU to relieve the “huge pressures” on that country’s reception and asylum system.

Full text of the Maltese Bishops’ letter to Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin

(Source: Archdiocese of Malta)

15th April 2020

Your Eminence,

We write with reference to the dramatic events unfolding at sea, a number of miles south of where we are standing, where 47 men, women and children are stuck on an NGO rescue vessel in Malta’s search and rescue area waiting to be allowed to disembark.

As you are no doubt aware, this boat is but one of four boats sighted by Frontex on 11th April between Malta/Italy and Libya, one of which is rumoured to have sunk with some 55 people on board.

Today, after they had been at sea for 4 days, Aita Mari, an NGO search and rescue vessel, came to their assistance.

We are reliably informed that their situation is still extremely precarious, not only because bad weather is approaching, but also because there are no emergency or medical personnel on board the Aita Mari.

Malta has refused to allow the migrants to disembark. This is in line with a decision, taken by the Cabinet on Friday 10th April, stating that Malta’s ports are unsafe and that migrants will not be allowed to enter, on account of the state of emergency caused by the spread of COVID19.

This notwithstanding, we have approached the Maltese authorities to ask them to allow the migrants to disembark in Malta.

In view of the huge pressures that Malta is currently facing, we are writing to you to ask you to use your good offices to intervene with other EU member states and ask them to support Malta by accepting to relocate all or some of the migrants on board.

We are making this request as we acknowledge that Malta’s reception and asylum systems are currently struggling to cope with the large number of boat arrivals that the country has received in recent months.

Just days ago, the Maltese Armed Forces rescued some 64 migrants from a vessel in distress, bringing the number of arrivals this year alone to almost 1200.

During 2019, a total of 3,400 asylum seekers arrived in Malta and, between June and December 2018, Malta received over 1445 boat arrivals.

Although a large number of these asylum seekers were relocated to other EU member states, the majority of them remained in Malta.

In the light of this reality, we ask you to intervene in this case to advocate for a solution that is based on solidarity and respect for human dignity.

+ Charles Jude Scicluna
President, Maltese Episcopal Conference

+ Mario Grech
Apostolic Administrator for Gozo

+ Joseph Galea-Curmi
Auxiliary bishop

Fr Jimmy Bonnici
General Secretary
Maltese Episcopal Conference

More on Novena on the Mediterranean refugee crisis:

“Human dignity is not in quarantine”: EU Bishops urge states to “generosity” in relocating asylum seekers from Greek islands

More from Malta on Novena:

Malta archbishop, on Mediterranean refugee rescue: “Saving lives is a moral imperative”

“Unjustifiable”: Maltese, Italian Catholics rip closure of ports to refugees rescued in Mediterranean

Maltese Catholic groups sound COVID-19 alarm for poor: “Although illness doesn’t discriminate, the economic fall‑out will”

Malta archbishop: “If a migrant is banging on our shores, we cannot ignore it”

Malta archbishop embraces asylum seekers: “You are welcome. Feel part of our family”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.