Malta would ‘sink’ if Slo­vaks get their way on mi­gra­tion

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Malta would be over­whelmed and “sink” if a Slo­vakian plan for tack­ling mi­gra­tion were to be im­ple­mented, ac­cord­ing to Mal­tese In­te­rior Min­is­ter Carmelo Abela.

Ja­copo Barigazzi, writ­ing on Politico, said Slo­vakia is one of the harsh­est crit­ics of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s refugee re­lo­ca­tion scheme, and has drawn up an al­ter­na­tive plan that would al­low coun­tries to hand over cash rather than take in mi­grants. The plan will be dis­cussed by Mr Abela and his EU coun­ter­parts at a din­ner meet­ing.

But the Mal­tese are not im­pressed.

“If… we re­ceive hun­dreds of thou­sands of mi­grants and [other EU mem­ber coun­tries] give us only money, first and fore­most I think we’ll sink be­cause our coun­try is al­ready densely pop­u­lated,” Mr Abela told POLITICO at the Mal­tese em­bassy in Brus­sels.

The min­is­ter, and other mem­bers of the Mal­tese gov­ern­ment, were in Brus­sels for meet­ings in the Com­mis­sion and Par­lia­ment ahead of the start of the coun­try’s pres­i­dency of the Coun­cil, which be­gins in Jan­uary. Malta takes over at the helm from Slo­vakia.

The Slo­vakian pro­posal, based on what it calls “ef­fec­tive sol­i­dar­ity,” would al­low EU mem­bers to help out oth­ers on a vol­un­tary, not com­pul­sory ba­sis. Based on the talks, Bratislava in­tends to up­date the plan and present it to EU lead­ers for dis­cus­sion next month.

“I don’t see that [it is ef­fec­tive], be­cause if most mem­ber states de­cide to give a fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion but not take mi­grants, the prob­lem will still be with that mem­ber state,” Abela said.

Slo­vakia has taken the Com­mis­sion to court over its manda­tory refugee re­lo­ca­tion pol­icy. But tiny Malta, one of the front­line states on mi­gra­tion, wants to speed up the work car­ried out by the Com­mis­sion, es­pe­cially an over­haul of the Dublin reg­u­la­tion that forces asy­lum seek­ers to be reg­is­tered in the coun­try in which they ar­rived.

“Our aim is to have a per­ma­nent re­lo­ca­tion mech­a­nism in place,” Mr Abela said, stress­ing that “Dublin will have cen­ter stage” when the Mal­tese take over the Coun­cil pres­i­dency.

The prob­lem is that “time is against us, we have an is­sue not at the doorstep but in our house,” he said, re­fer­ring to the 1.2 mil­lion mi­grants that ar­rived in Europe last year.

The flow is far from be­ing stemmed: nearly 27,500 mi­grants reached Ital­ian shores in Oc­to­ber, the high­est monthly num­ber ever recorded in the Cen­tral Mediter­ranean and more than twice as many as in the pre­vi­ous month, ac­cord­ing to Fron­tex, the Euro­pean bor­der and coast guard agency.

The last time Europe changed its asy­lum reg­u­la­tion it took it six years to find agree­ment but Mr Abela, a mem­ber of the rul­ing Labour Party, hopes this time it will be quicker.

He said mi­gra­tion is no longer “an is­sue of two or three front­line mem­ber states, all mem­ber states in one way or an­other have ex­pe­ri­enced the is­sue of mi­gra­tion.”

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