Valletta: Malta called on the European Union to develop a "clear strategy" to deal with migrants fleeing conflicts to their shores after two shipwrecks claimed hundreds of lives.
"We are no superpower," Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told AFP yesterday. "But we do not only control our border but also Europe`s borders, and Italy is doing the same."
Also yesterday, Syrian refugees who survived a boat capsize off Malta said they were fired on by "militiamen" as they set out on their perilous journey from Libya.
At least 36 people perished after the boat sank on Friday, a week after another shipwreck off Italy left at least 359 dead.
"Those people had a life and a stable job in their country but could not live there any longer," Muscat said. "The group that arrived (in Malta) yesterday included 10 medical doctors and a neurosurgeon."
The prime minister complained of the "very little response" Malta had received in appeals for EU solidarity over the humanitarian crisis.
"This situation cannot be solved with money but with political commitment and a clear strategy," he said.
Earlier yesterday, Muscat held a surprise meeting in Libya with his counterpart Ali Zeidan, saying afterwards that the north African country was "part of the solution".
A boat carrying up to 400 migrants, mostly Syrians, left the western Libyan port of Zwara on Thursday.
Some of the more than 200 survivors said Libyan militiamen shot wildly at them, leaving several people dead and causing the vessel to take on water and sink.
Syrian national Mohammed, 34, wept as he recalled his desperate search for his missing pregnant wife and seven-year-old daughter after he and his other five-year-old daughter managed to reach safety.
Mohammed said he had paid USD 4,800 (3,500 euros) to seek a better life in Europe, crossing through Egypt to Libya.
"When we got on the boat, Libyan militia put their machine guns to our heads and demanded more money. I had USD5,000 and they took this too," Mohammed said from a detention camp in Malta.
He said the Libyan gunmen followed them for four or five hours.
"All of a sudden, they started shooting at us and the boat... All I could think of at that time was to protect my two young children," Mohammed said.