Habiba from Somalia talked nineteen to the dozen on the phone with the French Ambassador, proudly showing off her French vocabulary as she described her life in Paris.

"It was extraordinary to hear her... laughing and so happy to be in Paris. I tried to speak to her in my broken English and she said forget it, please speak French," Ambassador Daniel Rondeau told The Sunday Times.

The 17-year-old girl - one of 95 refugees France took from Malta last year as part of the EU's voluntary resettlement programme - is the perfect example of integration that encourages Mr Rondeau to continue extending a hand of solidarity to Malta.

On Tuesday, he will repeat this move and will personally hand out letters to 92 other immigrants - including two newborns - who have just been chosen by the embassy to start their life afresh in France in July.

The letter reads: "This decision is a sign of solidarity towards a member state that receives on its soil a great many asylum seekers. It is a sign that France, which receives the second highest number of asylum seekers in the world, retains its tradition of welcoming those in the world who seek freedom."

The letter reassures the refugees that once they reach France they will be provided with lodging, aid for their integration and information about their rights and duties.

Immigrants have to meet a set of criteria to be accepted, but the embassy lowered its benchmarks after half of them fell short so as to be able to take on as many as possible.

Particular attention was paid to families with young children to facilitate integration through schooling.

Cradling five-month-old Degan, Mr Rondeau sits down with her Somali parents - Ifrah Elmi Ibrahim, 25, and Abdisamad Hassan Elmi, 26 - in his office and listens to how they escaped the instability and violence in their country.

"These people are prepared to die to live anywhere except their country; so many die in the Mediterranean Sea. It is really a tragedy and Malta was affected by it... we have to share this tragedy with the Maltese and with the immigrants. It's our sea and it's at our door, we cannot look the other way," he said.

Immigration is a subject close to the ambassador's heart. He flies the flag for the solidarity pact his country pushed to introduce when it held the EU Presidency. France was the first country to implement the pilot project of voluntary burden sharing tailor-made for Malta by taking 95 immigrants.

Last year, when Mr Rondeau boarded the aircraft with them, he was thinking about how important it was for the refugees to start a new life but worried about them settling in.

"It's a big responsibility. I thought even if only 40 of these people eventually succeed it would be a success. To know, only one year later, that 10 are already working is great news," he said.

Several EU member states were initially reluctant to follow the French example because they feared this would entice more migrants to come to Malta. But looking back one year later, Mr Rondeau is pleased to see that Germany, the UK, and other countries have followed suit.

A top journalist and novelist, the 61-year-old ambassador is a doer, going to great lengths to throw a spotlight on the tragedy of immigration. Last year he even wrote to Pope Benedict XVI encouraging him to highlight their plight.

The Pope must have taken on his proposal because the following Christmas and Palm Sunday he raised the subject and even denounced the riots between immigrants and Italians.

Last weekend, Mr Rondeau had the opportunity to thank him as they embraced on the red carpet soon after the Pontiff landed in Malta.

"I was very happy to see that when the Pope came to Malta he mentioned immigration three times in his message to the Maltese. I said thank you to him. If the Church does not move on this issue, who will?" he said.

However, Mr Rondeau genuinely appreciates the fear this subject inspires in some Maltese.

"I can completely understand but we have to remember the tragedy. It's a human responsibility to do that," he said, adding that immigration always existed but in recent years there had been an "acceleration of history".

These days the problem was the number and the fact that movement of people had become easier, making it impossible to monitor the movement of immigrants as millions left their home in Asia and Africa every day.

He believed the world authorities had to come together to discuss how to manage this issue, since it affected everyone.

"The world has changed drastically in the past decades," he said, pointing out how the situation in Malta itself had changed in the past months as the number of immigrants arriving aboard boats has dwindled.

So was this the last year France would take refugees from Malta?

"Who knows? Maybe there will be nobody in the country to take next year."

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