3rd Mar 2024

Malta accuses the EU of poor support on immigration

Malta's foreign minister Michael Frendo has lamented that there is a lack of real commitment from the EU to help the island's illegal immigration problem.

In a strong statement made on Sunday (2 July) , Mr Frendo insisted that "the European Union is dealing with Malta with the mentality of 'small countries, small problems' and this is unacceptable."

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  • "Malta is being left in the lurch" the Maltese foreign minister said (Photo: European Commission)

The immigration problem is causing a problematic experience for the countries in south Europe like Spain, Italy and Malta, but the Maltese minister insisted that for Malta the problem is worse.

"All attention is on Spain which is getting assistance and Malta is being left in the lurch," he stated.

"The recent landings in Malta in the last ten days are equivalent, with regard to population density, to over 50,000 illegal immigrants landing in Spain in the same period and the Canaries do not have that level of a problem," explained Mr Frendo.

Last month Malta also insisted on a change in the EU summit's conclusions on immigration.

Malta wanted a call for help to be directed urgently to those countries with extensive sea borders, and so most vulnerable to the problem.

But eventually only a call for more cooperation with countries of origin and transit of illegal migrants was included in the text.

Meanwhile, the Maltese foreign minister is expected to raise the issue in an EU foreign ministers' meeting later this month in an attempt to convince his European counterparts that Malta needs more concrete help in dealing with the problem.

"I will take a very tough stance at the next General Affairs and External Relations Council," concluded Mr Frendo.

More cooperation with Libya needed

As thousands of immigrants landing in the southern EU countries leave from Libya more cooperation between the EU and Libya is needed, Maltese conservative MEP Simon Busuttil told EUobserver.

"The EU can help Libya significantly with its know-how. The EU can help Libya deal better with the migration influx from its southern borders which are undefined and unpatrolled desert borders," said Mr Busuttil.

"Until last December, when I led a European Parliament delegation to Libya on the specific issue of immigration, we were shocked to learn that Libya is patrolling its 2,000 km maritime border with just two patrol boats," Mr Busuttil added.

Libya is not part of the Barcelona process- an EU partnership scheme with Mediterranean and African countries - and therefore there is no official co-operation agreement between the EU and Libya.

Back in 2004, Libya expressed some interest in joining the process but this was never backed up by an official application from the country, a commission spokesperson told EUobserver.

"If Libya wants to join the Barcelona process it must also accept the Barcelona Acquis," the commission contact added.

All countries joining the Barcelona scheme must agree with the Barcelona Acquis which sets the rules for the partnership.

"Perhaps not enough effort has been made by the EU to spell out the benefits of co-operation for Libya itself," remarked Mr Busuttil.

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