The Malta Independent 22 July 2024, Monday
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European Council expected to endorse Task Force conclusions

Malta Independent Thursday, 19 December 2013, 16:06 Last update: about 11 years ago

Although it is not the main item on the agenda of the European Council beginning now in Brussels, the discussion on immigration is expected to take place tomorrow morning along with other items such as enlargement and external relations.

Barring any last minute developments, the debate in Council is not expected to cause any upsets. The Council is expected to endorse the 38-point conclusions of the Task Force which were later approved by the Commission and the representatives of the Member States in the General Affairs Council. It is not expected the discussion at the Council will open up the packet of 38 measures proposed by the Task Force and deliberate changes to them. At most, what can be expected will be some words urging timelines to the points in the Task Force conclusions.

While this is the normal way in which the EU sets about its business, this could create problems at the political level for the government which began by demanding urgent and drastic action to cut down and if possible eliminate boatloads of asylum seekers coming to Malta, then at the October Council saw the urgency pushed back to `definite actions’ at the December summit only for the December summit now being expected to rubberstamp the Task Force’s conclusions asking only for a definite timeline for their implementation.

It is also clear that the Dublin 2 directive stands no chance of being overhauled or changed in the short term. The first time this will be discussed is next June. But one must consider, on the other hand, that the Greek presidency as from January followed by the Italian one after that might help in pushing the changes Malta is asking for, seeing the two countries share the concerns Malta has.

What might emerge at the Council, on the political level may be related to at least two episodes that have unfortunately taken place over the past days and which might impact negatively on the immigration debate in general.

One is of course the video from the Lampedusa camp showing immigrants being stripped naked in the street and hosed down, evoking echoes of the Nazi death camps.

Then there is the European Court of Human Rights’s decision as regarding the treatment of asylum seekers.

Commission officials have defended the Task Force’s conclusions. This was the first time that a comprehensive approach to the problem is being tried and it is amazing how much has been achieved.

The emphasis is on prevention through reinforcing the cooperation of the countries of transit and also of origin.

In the case of Malta, the situation in Libya is particularly important. Malta is already helping the EU action in Libya through the presence of three AFM officials helping train Libyan soldiers in Libya itself.

Malta is also in the forefront of the EU efforts to help in the normalisation of Libya.

Another important point in the Maltese take on the immigration efforts is to get what is already there on the legal field regarding returning those migrants who have not qualified to be considered as refugees back to their countries of origin.

But this is easier talked about than being effected. Frontex can set up all kinds of return flights but the problem is to establish which is the country of origin of these people, give many of them claim to have lost their personal papers.

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