VALLETTA, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- The recent stand-off that left a rescue boat carrying migrants from Libya stranded at sea was symptomatic of a lack of understanding between the European Union member states, according to Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Speaking at a New Year's meet and greet with diplomats, Muscat insisted that the rescue vessels, operated by rescue NGO Sea Watch, had saved migrants at sea within the Libyan search and rescue area, and had sailed to Malta rather than to the nearest safe port.
This "exposes serious weaknesses in the governance of this phenomenon and a lack of understanding by a number of European countries of what is happening in the southernmost part of Europe," Muscat said.
Sea Watch has consistently refused to transport rescued migrants escaping from Libya, a country riven by civil war, back to their place of departure, arguing that this would be in breach of the international rule of non-refoulement.
"Stability in the region also means a longer-term solution for migration," Muscat said.
Several migrants are to be resettled after eight countries have stepped in to accept them. This ad hoc solution "was by no means final," however.
"Immigration will remain an issue for Europe in the weeks, months and years to come. Ignoring it will be to the detriment of the future of the EU as a union," he said.
He emphasised the importance of the UN Global Compact on Migration, saying there was a need for a global dimension which goes beyond the EU borders. "A global approach can safely assist in managing migration, and here Africa remains Europe's most important partner," Muscat said.