31st Oct 2020

Malta raises alarm over illegal immigration

Malta raised the alarm today (2 September) over a surge in illegal immigration to the island, demanding EU assistance and tougher repatriation policies.

At the special request of the Maltese, the issue was discussed at an informal EU foreign ministers' gathering in Newport, Wales.

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  • Malta - one illegal immigrant for every two native Maltese (Photo: European Commission)

The Maltese government has this year witsessed a substantial upsurge in illegal immigration.

Around 1,200 illegal immigrants, primarily from North African and sub-sahara African states, have landed in Malta since January.

This is already twice as much as during the whole of 2004, a Maltese spokesman told EUobserver.

"That means that for every two people born in Malta, there is one illegal immigrant", the spokesman said.

"If the trend continues at the current pace, this ratio will be three to two by the end of this year", he added.

The densely-populated mediterranean island says it faces considerable problems absorbing the migrants, particularly in terms of social conditions and security.

Amnesty International in a report this year criticised conditions in Maltese detention centres where illegals are held as being "well below international standards".

During his intervention at the foreign ministers' meeting, Maltese foreign minister Michael Frendo called upon his colleagues to take over some of the refugees that were granted asylum by Malta in order to ease the pressure on the island.

"Malta accepts 53 percent of applications for asylum, which is one of the highest rates in the EU", the Maltese spokesman said.

He added that several EU countries - not only in the mediterranean - had offered to admit some of the refugees with asylum status from Malta, but he declined to name the states concerned.

The Maltese minister also called upon the EU to pressure African states more strongly to re-admit illegal immigrants once they have been expelled from the EU.

He suggested that the prime economic development aid agreement that the EU has with the region - the Cotonou agreement - should be used as a pressure tool to achieve better co-operation with African countries.

Malta claims the paragraph on migration in the Cotonou text - stating that African states should readmit their nationals residing illegally in the EU - should be read as a condition for these states to receive EU development aid.

The issue of illegal immigration was already in the spotlight earlier this week when commissioner Franco Frattini presented proposals calling upon member states to adopt stricter common rules governing the return of illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers.

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