Malta and Italy will be pushing for the principle remit of Frontex operations to be the repatriation of illegal immigrants to their country of origin, Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici said this evening.

He was addressing a news conference at the airport following talks in Italy. The conference was also addressed by Foreign Minister Tonio Borg and Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.

Dr Gonzi, who had a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said that even if it seemed that illegal immigration had stopped, it was still a major issue for both countries and they would continue to push for it to become an EU matter.

Dr Borg said that Malta's position about the Frontex operations in the Mediterranean remained that it would not take part as long as rules laid down that rescued migrants were to be taken to the country hosting the operation.

He said that even the Italians were a bit sceptical of the operations since they did not want to upset the balance created by their agreement with Libya and that was working to the effect that illegal immigration from Libya had almost zeroed.

The Italians, the minister said, did not want to do anything that would jeopardise this agreement.

Dr Gonzi said that today's meetings reaffirmed the strong relationship between Malta and Italy. The possibility of a visit to Malta by Mr Berlusconi was also discussed.

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