The debate over migration in Malta sparks a passionate response, with all of the noise surrounding the issue making it hard to hear the facts.
This seems all the more important that anti-migrant rhetoric has been a constant feature of popular discussion, despite far-right parties yet to make any sort of inroads into mainstream Maltese politics.
PN Leader Adrian Delia seems to be taking a strong stance over the issue, while the shooting of a migrant in a random attack that may possibly have racist undertones started to raise concerns.
Ahead of the European Parliamentary elections in May, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR) has issued a report on migration and asylum-seekers. Here are five of the key findings that affect Malta.
1. Asylum seekers arrivals shoot up by over 1,400 people. Could Salvini’s tough stance be behind it?
The total number of arrivals has shot up since the newly-elected Italian coalition government (made up of two parties on opposite sides of the political spectrum that share a common migration policy) declared that all Italian ports were closed to NGO vessels.
In fact, in 2018 there were 1,445 arrivals, up from the 20s recorded in 2016 and 2017
However, arrivals through the Mediterranean are on the whole decreasing, dropping from the 1,032,408 arrivals recorded during the migration crisis of 2015, to just 141,427 in 2018.
Meanwhile, Turkey continues to house the most refugees at 3.5 million, followed by Pakistan (1.4 million), Lebanon (1.4 million), Iran (1 million), and Germany (1 million).
In 2019 so far, there have been 5,300 sea and land arrivals, 185 people are either dead or missing.
The number of asylum applications have also increased jumping up to 2,034 in 2018 from 1,616 in 2017.
2. Not a single asylum seeker has been relocated to another EU country since 2013
Relocation remains a challenging issue, with the Dublin agreement seemingly achieving little despite consistent declarations of solidarity among member states.
Not one single refugee has been relocated to another European state since 2013. On the other hand, 168 asylum-seekers have been relocated from Italy and Greece to Malta since 2016, and a further 17 people from Turkey.
Meanwhile, since 2013 2,242 asylum seekers have relocated from Malta to the US. However, with the resettlement program ending in 2017, it remains to be seen whether any relocation will continue to take place.
The majority of sea arrivals are Sudanese (28%), then Bangladeshi (17%), Eritrean (14%), Ivorian (9%), and Somalian (7%).
3. Libya should not be considered a safe country for disembarkation
In its report, the UNHCR declared that Libya could no longer be considered a ‘safe-third-country’ as the country continues to endure an “extremely volatile security situation” with conflict erupting in the country once again.
The UNHCR, which has made 217 visits to disembarkation centres in 217, believes that the country did not meet the criteria of safety even before war erupted, due to substandard conditions and reports of serious abuses against asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants.
4. The Maltese Government is actively considering forming part of a stateless convention
The UNHCR report also noted that the Maltese government is “actively considering” to accede to the 1954 Statelessness Convention.
Currently, Malta is one of four EU countries that do not form part of any stateless conventions.
Today, at least 10 million people around the world are denied a nationality. As a result, they often aren’t allowed to go to school, see a doctor, get a job, open a bank account, buy a house or even get married
5. A policy on integration and an increase of NGOs have had a positive effect
After an integration strategy was launched in 2017 and the emergence of a number of refugee-led voluntary organisations and registered communities, refugees have started to feel more settled in Malta.
“They have become more familiar with their environment, have the desire to make an impact and support their fellow community members, have started organising activities to better integrate in society and have started to find a voice of their own,” the report says.