EU funds have been available to the Malta Police Force in order to cover expenses related to the forced return of third-country nationals who do not fulfil the conditions for entry and stay in Malta. This category of nationals includes failed asylum seekers.
The required funding has been secured through the European Return Fund which is one of the four financial instruments of the General Programme on ‘Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows’ (the others being the European Fund for the Integration of Third country nationals, the External Borders Fund and the European Refugee Fund). The European Return Fund specifically establishes a financial solidarity mechanism supporting the efforts of member states to improve the management of return in all its aspects and is administered by the Funds and Programmes Division in the Office of the Prime Minister in shared management with the European Commission.
The activity was included as a project under the 2009 European Return Fund Annual Programme. The allocated funds were intended to alleviate in part the burden then borne solely by the Maltese authorities in effecting the transfer of such third-country nationals to their country of origin. The different items of expenditure that were covered in the project included flight tickets for returnees and their escorts and part of the staff costs of accompanying officers directly involved in effecting the removals. The 2009 project covered related activities carried out between January 2009 and June 2011.
EU funding utilised for the purpose by the Malta Police Force during the period under reference totalled €78,607.5, representing 75% of the full cost incurred on these activities. This amount, duly augmented by an additional 25% from local funds, covered the return of 70 third-country nationals. One of the main challenges faced under this project was the procurement of documents for returnees, particularly due to the fact that Malta had no easy direct access to the third countries from which most migrants originate because it normally had no embassies there. Problems were also encountered in the identification of the nationality of the returnees.
Although the 2009 Annual Programme has been concluded, additional funding to cover such activity is still being utilised by the Malta Police Force through funds made available in subsequent Annual Programmes which are still currently underway.