The Swiss government yesterday authorised the resettlement of 19 African immigrants who had landed in Malta earlier this year following the political unrest in Africa.
Simonetta Sommaruga, the head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police (Justice Ministry) who is also a member of the Swiss Federal Council made this announcement on the German Swiss DRS Radio yesterday morning.
The immigrants hailing from Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan were transferred to Switzerland on 25 April by the Federal Office of Migration. However they were still waiting the official green light from the federal authorities.
Though Switzerland is not an EU member it has willingly accepted to take in a Pilot Project for Intra-EU re-allocation from Malta (EUREMA II) as part of the EU Pact on Immigration and Asylum.
The Swiss Minister yesterday confirmed that the federal government had acquiesced to the migrants’ request. 11 of them are going to be reunited with relatives living in Switzerland, while the rest will be resettled in several cantons. One particular refugee will be starting a new life in Liechtenstein. The Federal Office of Refugees described this gesture as a way of expressing its solidarity with Malta.
The director of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Susan Park explained that the refugees did not need to go through the asylum procedure in Switzerland once they had been granted refugee status by the commission. However since they had entered the country as part of the Eurema initiative, their relocation was not part of the formal UNHCR resettlement programme.
The issue of illegal migration is back on the local agenda following an increase in the number of African people reaching the Maltese shores in recent months. It has been estimated that this year Malta had to cope with more than 1,200 asylum seekers, most of them claiming to be fleeing their country due to political unrest. In the majority of the cases they flee from the Libyan or Tunisian coast.
This is in sharp contrast to the situation in 2010, when only two groups of migrants reached the island. At the time, the Libyan regime headed by Muammar Ghaddafi received substantial financial aid from the Italian government headed by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to be able to patrol its borders. However the Libyan regime was frequently accused of heinous violations of the fundamental human rights of asylum seekers and refugees.