The Malta Independent 10 December 2016, Saturday

Middle East, North African countries meet in Malta to draft guidelines on migration

Monday, 14 March 2016, 15:13 Last update: about 10 months ago

“The only effective way to convince potential victims not to use the service of migrant smugglers is to send a strong message against the viability of staying in Europe irregularly”. This was reiterated by Minister for Home Affairs and National Security Carmelo Abela when speaking about the fight against migrant smuggling during a conference organised by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development on migration.

Hosting more than 15 countries from the Middle East and North Africa and international organisations, the aim of this conference is to share lessons learnt and draft guidelines for situations dealing with migration in times of crisis.

Minister Abela highlighted the challenges posed by migrant smuggling which are leading to hundreds of lives being lost at sea. “The only way to guarantee safety of life at sea is to either prevent smugglers from operating in North Africa and elsewhere or to intercept the boats at the very beginning of their voyage. Such actions would render migrant smuggling operations futile”, said Abela.

He remarked that the current scenario is seeing the EU responding to a crises situation rather acting in pro-active and preventive manner and called for the international community as a whole to do more.

He also noted the issue of repatriation of those who are not entitled to international protection. Migrant smugglers often offer false hopes to these people, further exposing them to dangerous trips across the desert and over the Mediterranean Sea. In this regard, he encouraged more countries of origin in Africa to cooperate with EU states to issue the needed documents to repatriate economic migrants.

The Minister for Home Affairs concluded that;

“It is an unfortunate reality that as things stand today, the crime of migrant smuggling remains a low-risk, high-gain option for the perpetrators. It is only the victims that are confronted with a high-risk, high-cost option as they are enticed into spending their life savings on a trip that may very well be their last”.

During the conference, the organised working groups will be targeted towards improving the ability of States and other relevant stakeholders to prepare for, respond to, alleviate sufferings and protect the dignity and rights of migrants caught in countries in situations of acute crisis. 

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