Turn­ing to re­mit­tances, couldn’t send­ing peo­ple back af­fect this?

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Mal­tese im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers re­cently ar­rested 33 Malian mi­grants who had been liv­ing in Malta il­le­gally for a num­ber of years. Four of them were later re­leased, fol­low­ing a re­view by the Of­fice of the Refugee Com­mis­sioner.

Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat had ex­plained that the EU has signed agree­ments with third coun­tries that are will­ing to ac­cept na­tion­als who do not qual­ify for asy­lum sta­tus. He also said that mi­grants will only be de­ported to coun­tries of ori­gin that are safe. News re­ports said that some of these 29 mi­grants had lived in Malta for as long as eight years.

Asked whether send­ing these peo­ple back is the right thing to do, given that some of them had been in Malta for a num­ber of years and might very well have ar­rived here when they were in their teens, Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Fer­nan­dez said: “Mi­gra­tion raises many per­sonal ques­tions that are some­times very com­pli­cated and I un­der­stand that. We must face the prob­lem on a gen­eral ba­sis and work to­gether with African coun­tries rather than iden­tify with spe­cific sit­u­a­tions. That is the way we are han­dling it. I know they are hu­man be­ings and have real prob­lems, but the only way to face the prob­lem is by tack­ling the gen­eral sit­u­a­tion. We are work­ing to­gether with African states, and the EU pol­icy – which is es­tab­lished by all mem­ber states with EU in­sti­tu­tions – wants the whole process to oc­cur through col­lab­o­ra­tive work with African states.”

Mi­gra­tion it­self is good. The his­tory of mankind is a his­tory of mi­gra­tion, and we should not be afraid of it. Re­mit­tances [money sent back to coun­try of ori­gin] are im­por­tant from an eco­nomic point of view, but we mustn’t for­get the Trust Fund, as well as other eco­nomic pro­grammes of­fered by the EU.

For in­stance, re­mit­tances is an im­por­tant is­sue for Mali. We need to ease and fa­cil­i­tate re­mit­tances from le­gal mi­grants in Europe which are also help­ing EU coun­tries de­velop. Mi­gra­tion it­self is not wrong, hu­man traf­fick­ing is wrong and that is what must be fought.

The EU has pledged that the rights of all ir­reg­u­lar mi­grants sent back will be pro­tected and up­held. How is it do­ing this?

We are deal­ing through what we call ‘com­pacts’, which in­volve all as­pects of re­la­tions with the coun­tries in ques­tion. Of course, the EU val­ues of hu­man rights and democ­racy are al­ways above every­thing and are at the sub­stance of our ac­tion.

The Sa­hel re­gion is reg­u­larly hit by hu­man­i­tar­ian crises. Is send­ing aid enough, or do you be­lieve more needs to be done? What is the EU do­ing to help the Sa­hel re­gion?

The EU drafted a spe­cific strat­egy based on two pil­lars – se­cu­rity and devel­op­ment – which go hand-in-hand. This is why we are work­ing on the se­cu­rity as­pect of the Sa­hel re­gion to­gether with our African friends. We have in­stru­ments re­lated to the se­cu­rity as­pect in place through our PSDC mis­sions, along with the will for African coun­tries to cre­ate a new or­gan­i­sa­tion called the G5, and we are work­ing to­gether in the se­cu­rity sec­tor to help them build and main­tain sovereignty over all their ter­ri­to­ries. We also have fi­nan­cial in­stru­ments which will over­see around €3.5 bil­lion in aid for these coun­tries be­tween 2015 and 2020.

In ad­di­tion, there is also the new fi­nan­cial in­stru­ment, ac­ti­vated here in Malta dur­ing the Val­letta EU-Africa Sum­mit, which set up a trust fund to help tackle the deep roots of the mi­gra­tion phe­nom­ena. These are every­thing – from rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion, re­silience, devel­op­ment, youth and also bor­der-con­trol man­age­ment, which is a main el­e­ment of our ac­tion. We have around €1.1 bil­lion in funds for the Sa­hel, half of which has al­ready been spent on more than 36 projects, rang­ing from bor­der man­age­ment con­trols to re­silience pro­grammes. Is it enough? Never, but the EU is com­mit­ted to tack­ling this prob­lem, as shown in Val­letta when the Trust Fund was ap­proved.

What hap­pens in the Sa­hel re­gion af­fects North Africa. Is this just due to mi­gra­tion or are there other eco­nomic links?

I have met your For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter, as well as the EU Funds and Pres­i­dency Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary, to see Malta’s EU Pres­i­dency plans and these are ex­actly the same as with the EU. My man­date is to es­tab­lish a di­a­logue be­tween Europe, the Sa­hel and Maghreb and this is the only way to tackle the prob­lem. The cri­sis in the Sa­hel is a re­gional cri­sis and needs to be tack­led from a re­gional per­spec­tive – there is no other way. The Malta au­thor­i­ties are very well­pre­pared and in­tend to face the chal­lenges from a re­gional per­spec­tive. We will work very closely to­gether in or­der to try and pur­sue this.

The loss of life in the Mediter­ranean is very well known to Euro­peans, but there is also the lesser known death toll of ir­reg­u­lar mi­grants cross­ing the Sa­hara desert. Does the EU have any ideas how to help stop the loss of life in that re­gion?

We have to speak with our African col­leagues, who are very con­scious that the peo­ple dy­ing in the Sa­hara are their cit­i­zens. We have to work with them. We are not work­ing for Africa, but with Africa, and ev­ery ac­tion we take is be­ing taken to­gether with them.

In the Agadez re­gion of Niger, the EU is dis­cussing the es­tab­lish­ment of an an­tenna in or­der to face all the prob­lems of il­le­gal traf­fick­ing. The ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion cri­sis is a global prob­lem.

The EU is work­ing on sta­bil­is­ing the re­gion, but the re­gion it­self is desta­bilised. The ar­gu­ments I’ve heard is that the re­sult­ing ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion cri­sis will be a prob­lem for many years.

We are try­ing to fight ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion – and the crim­i­nal net­works in­volved – in co­op­er­a­tion with African coun­tries. If we man­age, I be­lieve we will be able to stop il­le­gal mi­gra­tion. Il­le­gal mi­gra­tion is not good for any­one, in­clud­ing the coun­tries of ori­gin and Europe, as it also en­tails a whole net of traf­fick­ing – in­clud­ing drugs and arms traf­fick­ing. We need to con­trol this through closer co­op­er­a­tion with African na­tions.

Coun­tries in Europe are more con­scious of the Sa­hel re­gion, and my ob­jec­tive is to also show how the Sa­hel and Maghreb re­gions are linked to­gether, and the im­por­tance of work­ing to­gether. What will hap­pen in 20 years? I do not know.

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