Cooperation between Malta and Libya has prevented a "huge crisis", according to Foreign Affairs minister Evarist Bartolo, who on Friday said 7,000 people seeking asylum in Europe had been stopped from landing here.
However, urgent and long-term issues still need to be resolved, he told a migration board within the Med Forum 2020. Italian Home Affairs Minister Luciana Lamorgese was also present for the meeting.
Both Malta and Italy believe that a new migration pact being proposed by the European Commission is "complex and vague" and, together with Greece and Spain, they are pushing for mandatory relocation mechanisms.
On Friday Bartolo told the forum that 2,256 asylum seekers had landed in Malta so far this year. Were it not for the good relations and the strong cooperation with Libya, a further 7,000 people, intercepted by the authorities, would have reached our shores, he added.
According to the minister, one thousand migrants in Malta were the equivalent of one million arrivals in the European Union.
Over a million asylum-seekers have entered Europe since 2015, according to international reports.
"No country, no matter how big, can unilaterally solve the problem of irregular migration, let alone a small country like Malta where tourism accounts for 30 per cent of its economy," Bartolo said.
He urged the EU to increase its support to Libya so that it can protect its borders and ports while fighting organised crime and human trafficking.
It should also increase cooperation with Africa, enhance economic resilience, create jobs and offer asylum seekers a future in their own country. He also proposed the opening of more centres in Africa such as those in Rwanda and Niger where irregular migration applications are processed.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us