Malta has received €84.96 million, an average of €12.1 million a year, from European Union funds since 2007 to help it deal with migrant influxes, European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström confirmed on Tuesday in reply to a European Parliamentary question tabled by Maltese MEP Joseph Cuschieri.
On 10 July, Mr Cuschieri had pointed to the migrant arrivals on 3 and 9 July, which had seen 390 migrants being rescued and brought ashore to Malta, and which had also prompted the government to threaten to send the arrivals back to Libya.
In his question, Mr Cuschieri had asked the Commission how it intended to “alleviate the plight of Malta and other countries facing a similar situation” and for details of how the Commission was “prepared to assist the Maltese islands in dealing with this emerging crisis scenario”.
In a reply furnished on Tuesday, Commissioner Malmström said that the Commission “is fully aware of the particular pressures facing Malta’s immigration system with the arrival of a high number of migrants on Maltese shores. The Commission also recognises that Malta receives the largest number of asylum applicants as a percentage of the population of any member state within the EU.”
As such, she said, Malta has been the focus of the European Commission’s efforts to assist member states in dealing with migratory pressures.
As a result, she explained, Malta received €84.9 million from 2007-13 SOLID programme funds, which together comprises External Borders Fund, the European Return Fund, the European Refugee Fund, and the European Integration Fund.
The European Refugee Fund, she added, funded actions focus on increasing capacity of reception centres, the provision of material aid and medical care in the centres and measures to streamline the treatment of asylum applications.
With the support of the Return Fund and the External Borders Fund, Malta has also been able to carry out voluntary return programmes, forced return activities and investments in infrastructure and equipment ensuring efficient and secure management of the flow at the external borders, she explained.
She also pointed out that Malta can, under the SOLID funds, also make immediate requests to the Commission for additional financial assistance in order to respond to emergency situation, which it has done.
These events reflect the impending crisis situation developing in Malta as a consequence of the large influx of migrants coming by boat from Africa. A strong stand has been taken by the Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, who called for solidarity from the EU on the migration issue, a stand that has been communicated formally to the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy.
In his question, Mr Cuschieri had also observed how, “The current situation is evidence that burden-sharing of irregular immigrants and asylum-seekers in the European Union is failing and that the immigration challenge for Malta, an island on the border of Europe and Africa, continues to grow by the day.”
Commissioner Malmström on Tuesday, however, underscored the Commission’s negotiations along such lines, commenting how, “The Commission has also made a plea to other member states to assist Malta in dealing with the inflow, via the relocation of beneficiaries of international protection from Malta to other member states.
“Relocation is one of the most tangible acts of solidarity available to Member States. EU relocation efforts have so far allowed around 690 persons who have applied for asylum in Malta since 2005 to be relocated elsewhere. The most recent relocation from Malta took place on 16 July.”
She also pointed to a ‘relocation forum’ being held on 25 September where member states are to discuss relocation issues.[Source: www.independent.com.mt]