The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

EC's proposed migration pact ‘good basis for discussion’, but raises number of questions - Bartolo

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 24 September 2020, 10:21 Last update: about 27 days ago

The general direction of the European Commission's proposed new Pact on Migration and Asylum is a good basis for a reasonable discussion, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo told The Malta Independent, but said that there are a number of issues that still need to be addressed.

"Why not have NGO ships disembark the irregular migrants in a port of the flag state? What happens if a small state like Malta has more asylum seekers than it can bear because of its size, how will they be relocated to other EU states? How are we going to ensure that countries of origin cooperate in taking back irregular migrants?"

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These were the questions asked by Bartolo in his initial reaction to the Commission's proposal.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had said about the proposal: "We are proposing today a European solution, to rebuild trust between Member States and to restore citizens' confidence in our capacity to manage migration as a Union. The EU has already proven in other areas that it can take extraordinary steps to reconcile diverging perspectives. We have created a complex internal market, a common currency and an unprecedented recovery plan to rebuild our economies. It is now time to rise to the challenge to manage migration jointly, with the right balance between solidarity and responsibility."

The proposal itself covers a number of issues.

The first pillar of the Commission's approach consists of more efficient and faster procedures. In particular, the Commission is proposing to introduce an integrated border procedure, "which for the first time includes a pre-entry screening covering identification of all people crossing the EU's external borders without permission or having been disembarked after a search and rescue operation."

This, the Commission had said, will include a health and a security check, fingerprinting and registration in the Eurodac database. "After the screening, individuals can be channeled to the right procedure, be it at the border for certain categories of applicants or in a normal asylum procedure. As part of this border procedure, swift decisions on asylum or return will be made, providing quick certainty for people whose cases can be examined rapidly."

The second pillar at the core of the Pact is 'fair sharing of responsibility and solidarity.'

The Commission had said that Member States will be bound to act responsibly and in solidarity with one another. "Each Member State, without any exception, must contribute in solidarity in times of stress, to help stabilize the overall system, support Member States under pressure and ensure that the Union fulfils its humanitarian obligations."

The issue is however, that this does not necessarily mean that all states will be bound to take in asylum seekers from other states.

"In respect of the different situations of Member States and of fluctuating migratory pressures, the Commission proposes a system of flexible contributions from the Member States. These can range from relocation of asylum seekers from the country of first entry to taking over responsibility for returning individuals with no right to stay or various forms of operational support.While the new system is based on cooperation and flexible forms of support starting off on a voluntary basis, more stringent contributions will be required at times of pressure on individual Member States, based on a safety net. The solidarity mechanism will cover various situations - including disembarkation of persons following search and rescue operations, pressure, crisis situations or other specific circumstances."

Minister Bartolo has also spoken to the international press on the Pact proposal. He told Sky News in an interview that "the issue (of migration) is becoming tougher and tougher quickly".

Bartolo told the international news agency that Covid-19's social and economic impacts will mean that more people will search for a better life. He said that around a third of migrants who arrived irregularly in Malta over the past year were eligible for asylum, while the rest were economic migrants.

He said that when Malta's economy was growing, then the country was creating jobs that could be filled by those arriving. "That is not going to happen now," he told Sky News.

Describing the Commission's proposal, he said some countries will take asylum seekers while others will help return people. Countries that are against taking in asylum seekers would need to help in the return programme he told Sky News.

Bartolo has, for quite a while, been pushing for the EU and member states to do more on migration.

 

 

 


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