Malta will not become Europe’s crisis centre for migrants, Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo warned on Thursday.
Calling for solidarity, he said Malta could not be expected to shoulder the weight of migration on its own “when ultimately it is protecting a European external border.”
“Malta will do its part on migration, but we will not and cannot be Europe’s crisis centre,” he said in a video uploaded on Facebook.
Bartolo said Malta had shown solidarity with other countries when needed, and it was now its turn to ask for support.
Being Europe’s smallest state had not stopped Malta from making every effort to save lives at sea for years. It was unfair to leave Malta on its own to carry this disproportionate burden: one percent of the population is made up of migrants waiting in detention centres to have their asylum application processed, he said.
His appeal follows a statement by the UN Refugee Agency and International Organisation for Migration calling on Malta and European states to bring ashore 160 rescued people who have been aboard two Captain Morgan vessels for weeks.
Malta shut its ports to asylum seekers, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, in April.
It has since returned one group of migrants to Libya through the intervention of a private fishing boat.
Separately, an inquiry is under way into claims the AFM “sabotaged” a migrant boat. The claims have been vehemently denied.
438% increase in Central Mediterranean arrivals
In his plea on Thursday, Bartolo said that since 2005, almost nine per cent of the population came through irregular migration routes.
Human traffickers had developed a very profitable business activity, he said, adding that the migration problem was a collective European responsibility.
“We need to find a way to address this challenge together, but we are being left alone. Words of sympathy are not enough. We need practical help. We need to relocate a number of migrants to other countries.”
In the first three months of this year there was an increase of 438% of migrant arrivals through the Central Mediterranean route.
"In April, this was three times as much. So far this year, 1,500 migrants have reached Malta – nearly half the total amount we had for the whole of last year. More arrivals are expected as summer approaches and the situation in Libya gets worse.
"The bigger the problem gets, the less solidarity we get: since 2005, only eight percent of migrants in Malta have been relocated to other EU member states."
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