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Home » Border Security, Home Affairs

Malta’s proposals on asylum, migration and border control

Submitted by on 09 Nov 2017 – 16:25

The new innovative IT border system is an important element of the EU’s Smart Border Initiative, and the primary focus of the Maltese Presidency, to improve security in the EU. Maltese Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, HON. MICHAEL FARRUGIA discusses the Maltese proposals regarding asylum, migration and border control

In the first half of 2017, the Maltese chaired discussions relating to seven asylum proposals, that would comprehensively reform the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). They also discussed several proposals relating to border management, including the Entry-Exit system and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).

The former set of proposals set out to create a Common European Asylum System, further to introducing the concept of solidarity in the framework of the Dublin Regulation. The latter set of proposals set out to provide immigration authorities with the required tools to better address over-staying and mala fide travel into Europe.

In the border management sphere, the Maltese Presidency secured an agreement between the co-legislators on political issues relating to the proposal for an Entry-Exit system, whereas the European Council agreed on a general approach on the ETIAS proposal.
As far as asylum is concerned, the Maltese Presidency adopted a thematic approach, focusing on limiting abuse and secondary movement, socio-economic rights of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection, as well as ensuring guarantees for people with special needs.

Key points of concern were addressed across the board in an effort to arrive at a balanced compromise. Progress was also registered in relation to other elements of the proposals. Furthermore, the Maltese Presidency secured broad political agreement with the European Parliament on an EU Regulation to establish the EU Agency for Asylum.

The Maltese Presidency also sought to reach agreement on a solidarity mechanism within the Dublin Regulation. Whilst some broad lines have been identified by the Maltese Presidency, which earned the support of a majority of member states, further work is required in order to move towards convergence between member states.

Malta will continue to promote the implementation of the concept of solidarity and its permanent inclusion in the EU legislative framework, given the Maltese government considers that it may never truly have a Common European Asylum System without the element of solidarity. In fact Malta has supported, in word and deed, relocation from Greece and Italy. This is because we consider that common standards cannot be achieved on the ground, as opposed to only on paper, if some member states have to carry the burden on their own, without the assistance and support of the other member states.

When considering this, it should be borne in mind that Malta continues to face considerable asylum pressures even if there has been a decrease in the number of irregular migrant arrivals. As a matter of fact, in 2016 Malta received approximately 1,900 asylum applications, and was ranked fourth amongst EU member states in terms of number of asylum applications per capita.

Malta will continue supporting progress relating to other asylum proposals and step up security at our external borders. Besides achieving progress in relation to the Entry-Exit system and ETIAS; the Maltese have also concretely contributed to reception efforts and maritime surveillance operations in the Mediterranean.

We have responded to EASO and FRONTEX calls in the context of hotspot operations, and provided assistance via the Union Civil Protection Mechanism. Moreover, the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) have participated in Joint Operation (JO) Triton since its inception. AFM personnel, along with their aerial and maritime assets, have been made available to the JO on a year-long basis. Currently up to 80% of AFM aerial and maritime resources have been pledged to the JO operation.

Moreover, AFM is also carrying out medical evacuations from among rescued migrants, who are disembarked in Malta even when they have been rescued outside Malta’s area of responsibility as identified in relevant international instruments.

Furthermore, AFM is also taking part in EU NAVFORMED Operation Sophia with the deployment of officers as well as the provision of training for the Libyan Navy Coastguard in Malta, as well as in the Seahorse Mediterranean project, particularly through the provision of training. These efforts have made Malta a key player in the Mediterranean insofar as migration and asylum, as well as their security aspects are concerned. The Maltese will uphold this role in the coming months and years.

We firmly believe that current initiatives at the EU level are positive and that they need to be upheld. However, we also need to keep looking forward. In particular, we need to work more with the authorities in Libya to stifle the activities of migrant smugglers and traffickers.
Access to Europe cannot continue to be controlled by a group of people whose only concern is monetary, and who have no regard whatsoever for human lives, rights or the security of Europe and North Africa