The Malta Independent 26 June 2019, Wednesday

Malta facing great migration challenge – EU Commissioner

Tuesday, 7 May 2019, 14:10 Last update: about 3 months ago

Without a doubt, Malta is facing great migration challenges compared to the size of the population, European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos said.

Following a meeting with Maltese Minister for Home Affairs and National Security Michael Farrugia, the EU Commissioner noted that this contrasted with mainland Europe as the levels of arrivals have regularized as time has gone by, whilst, in Malta, arrivals have increased due to the ongoing power struggles in Libya.

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“This is why we continue to stand ready and provide Malta with practical and financial support to strengthen migration capacities.”

The Malta Independent spoke with the UNHCR and Sea-Watch NGO earlier in the week on the conflict in Libya and its potential affects on migration, and it was noted that things could begin to escalate.

The Commissioner praised Malta as being “the smallest member state with the biggest solidarity”, pointing out how the Alan Kurdi vessel episode involving 64 migrants was handled in April.

“Malta is not alone,” he said, explaining that EU funds are available to continue to enable the transfer of arrivals to other member states, whilst maintaining that there is a need for “predictable but lasting solidarity”.

This by continue work between member states to create long-term European solutions, supporting third countries, along with the agreement reached a few weeks ago to strengthen and enhance European border and coast guard law.

The ‘Metsola law’, named as such because of PN MEP Roberta Metsola spearheading it, will see an increase of 10,000 new border and coast guards and operational staff stationed at Europe’s external borders.

“All of this has to go hand in hand with our neighbouring countries.”

Apart from this, Avramopoulos explained that they are working closely with the UNHCR and IOM to improve conditions with migrants through resettlement, if they are in need of it, or transport back to their country of origin.

“I would like to assure the Maltese authorities that I will be standing by them in view of the upcoming developments of border security.”

Minister Farrugia insisted that Malta had always done its part with regards to migration, going on to point out that they had gone over and above what was their responsibility.

“When there were issues with regards to NGO boats, in spite of it not being our responsibility, we worked together with the commission to get migrants on shore.”

Focusing on Libya, it was noted that the ongoing issues there could eventually affect the whole Mediterranean region at any moment in time, but made it a point to explain that it was not only the Central Mediterranean region that was discussed, but also Eastern and Western regions with the intention of working together.

“The Commissioner and I – we speak the same language; we support each other. There are some areas where I would like things to move faster, and him-me, but we understand each other.”

Whilst Farrugia said the commissioner is trying to join all the nations together, he insisted that he needed to put Malta’s interests first and foremost.

“Malta has shown solidarity with other countries when the need arose, and from the commission they have shown support to Malta when we needed it.”

“It was a frank discussion on the way forward and how we can work together.”

 

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