The Malta Independent 16 July 2020, Thursday

Another EU member state offers to take migrants from Malta

Karl Azzopardi Sunday, 14 June 2020, 08:00 Last update: about 1 month ago

Four EU member states will be helping Malta with relocating migrants who have recently disembarked on our shores, the European Commission for Migration and Home Affairs told The Malta Independent.

Earlier this week, it was reported that France, Luxembourg and Portugal were offering to help relocate migrants rescued by Malta, but the European Commission has confirmed with The Malta Independent on Sunday that Germany has also joined in.

ADVERTISEMENT

Last week, 425 migrants were allowed to disembark in Malta after spending over six weeks at sea on four tourist boats that the government had charted in order to save them without letting them in, due to ports being closed as a COVID-19 precautionary measure.

The boats were allowed in after migrants on one of the vessels stole knives from the kitchen and threatened to blow up gas cylinders. A magisterial inquiry and a police investigation are underway.

In an interview, Prime Minister Robert Abela had expressed his frustration at the fact that, once again, the EU washed its hands of the problem and made promises but delivered only empty talk, adding that he understood people's anger because he was angry too.

Later on in the week, it was reported that three EU countries were offering to help.

The Malta Independent on Sunday contacted the European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs about this speculation, with a spokesperson confirming that four countries are now offering to help.

“We can confirm that four Member States have now committed to relocating people recently disembarked in Malta; Germany, France, Luxembourg and Portugal,” a spokesperson for the Commission said.

The Commission said it encourages other member states to equally show their support as more cooperation and solidarity between member states is needed.

“Coordinating relocation is a challenging exercise, that has been complicated by the outbreak of the Coronavirus,” the spokesperson said. “We issued guidelines for Member States on implementing EU law in the area of asylum, return and resettlement during the pandemic which called for the continuity of procedures as much as possible while fully ensuring the protection of people’s health and fundamental rights in line with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

The commission has been coordinating post-disembarkation arrangements since January 2019 and it is committed to helping member states find ad hoc solutions to the situation in the Central Mediterranean.

The spokesperson explained that the commission is doing a lot to support Malta and other member states of first entry: operationally, financially and through its agencies (EASO and Frontex).

“We remain in very close touch with the Maltese authorities, including Commissioner Ylva Johansson at ministerial level last weekend. Last Friday, at the Justice and Home Affairs Council, Commissioner Johansson strongly encouraged Ministers to intervene and support Malta with the relocation of those migrants on board the Captain Morgan boats,” they said.

Nonetheless, the commission believes that it is clear that a more sustainable, reliable and permanent approach to search and rescue is urgently needed – “something that will also be addressed in the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.”

  • don't miss