Applications for international protection jumped up by 15% in 2018, while the number of residents at open centres almost doubled in two years
It seems that Malta’s diplomatic standoffs with neighbouring Italy over migration is having a substantial effect, with official figures showing that the number of sea arrivals increased by more than 1,400 people in 2018, with the total of applications for international protection also jumping up by 15%.
The increase is being felt throughout the refugee system, with the number of people residing within open centres almost doubling over two years (2016-2018).
The figures, which were released as part of World Refugee Day, make for interesting reading in a local context
While the number of people crossing the Mediterranean has declined dramatically, the rise of an anti-migrant coalition in Italy has had a substantial effect on Malta.
Meanwhile, an ever-worsening crisis in Libya means that area will likely no longer be considered a safe-disembarkation point for refugees.
Before 2018, an agreement with Italy, which saw the country take all refugees found within most Search and Rescue (SAR) zones in the Mediterranean, meant that Malta only received a handful of migrants for the years 2015, 2016, and 2017.
This has radically changed with 16 boat arrivals in 2018, with several arrivals already taking place in 2019.
The surge in population means that further pressure is being placed upon the Office of the Refugee Commission
While 2,131 applications were received in 2018, 1,500 were processed.
As it stands, Malta currently ranks third in the entire EU for most international protection application per one million people.
Of the 1,500, 56.9% were rejected
Of those approved, 35.3 per cent were of Syrian citizenship while 34.5 per cent were of Libyan citizenship.
Unfortunately, the main issue Mediterranean countries are having with current irregular migration is the lack of support from EU member states, particularly when it comes to burden-sharing and resettlement.
These concerns are not entirely unfounded. During the year under review (2018), 79 third-country nationals were resettled to another country, down by 54.3% when compared with 2017. A further 22 people benefitted from assisted voluntary return programmes.