A proposal to strengthen the European Union’s borders and facilitate the return of irregular migrants to their home countries, which was spearheaded by Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola, has been voted into law.
The law, which some are dubbing “the Metsola law”, will see the gradual addition of 10,000 European border and coast guards and staff. EU member states will be allowed to tap into these human resources when faced with problems of irregular migration
These officers will facilitate in assessing whether migrants are eligible for asylum or not. If they’re deemed ineligible, they will facilitate their return to their home countries, including verifying their identities and obtaining travel documents for them.
This law could be crucial for Malta, which only has one embassy in a sub-Saharan African country, namely Ghana. The return of irregular migrants is oftentimes a laborious process which can take up to several years, during which time the migrants would have built lives in Malta.
A major case erupted a few years ago, when the police detained a group of Malian migrants at the Safi detention centre for several weeks before eventually releasing them.
In the wake of their arrests, hundreds of migrants took to the street in protest and then President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca called for their release.
Metsola was the European Parliament’s rapporteur of this law and the final version represents a deal that the EP struck with the European Council and European Commission. Malta voted in favour of it at the European Council. It was passed into law at the European Parliament this afternoon, with 403 votes in favour and 162 against.
“I wanted a law which is fair with those in need of protection, firm with those who do not, and harsh with those who seek to exploit the most vulnerable,” Metsola said, “We can only address security and the challenges of migration if we keep this principle in mind.”
“Securing our external borders and ensuring that Member States fulfil their responsibilities is an absolutely critical piece of addressing the migration puzzle. It is not a stand alone solution but it is a necessary step that must be taken hand-in-hand with others.”
“Since I was elected as a representative of the Maltese and the Gozitan people in the European Parliament, I kept close contact with the citizens, meeting them every week. And with every individual I met – be they parents, students, pensioners, or entrepreneurs – security was always a huge concern, and I had to do something about it. This law is my, the EPP Group’s and the European Parliament’s reply to such concern.”
Cover photo: Left: Roebrta Metsola with European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos.