Sweden’s asylum burden and Malta’s proportionately the same

Maltese politicians don’t tell the electorate that Sweden receives as many asylum claims, as a proportion of its population, as Malta

Matthew Vella
3 September 2013, 12:00am
Swedish commissioner Cecilia Malmström was the target of a barrage of insults by Maltese supporters of Labour's migration policy.
Swedish commissioner Cecilia Malmström was the target of a barrage of insults by Maltese supporters of Labour's migration policy.

FULL DATA • Asylum applications in EU member states 2008-2012Asylum claims Malta 2008-2012Asylum decisions and arrivals Malta 2008-2012Map of asylum claims

Small. Wealthy. Highly-urbanised. In 2013, the island of Malta jealously guards some of the most appealing of attributes. Relatively low levels of crime, amazing weather and a skilled and multilingual workforce. Democratic stability has contributed to uninterrupted flows of foreign investment - over €12 billion in the last year.

So why do African asylum seekers get the national dander up?

Malta has so far received 1,840 asylum seekers - two-thirds of them from Horn of Africa countries like Somalia and Eritrea - under a new Labour government which has already been stopped by the European Court of Human Rights from effecting an illegal deportation.

But throwaway comments by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat that Malta's burden should be taken up by such countries as Sweden - home country of the EU's Immigration Commissioner Cecilia Malmström - has been put paid by data showing the reality of Malta's asylum burden.

Politicians claim large European Union member states should take a fair share of the Mediterranean's asylum seekers due to the disproportionate burden on southern member states like Malta.

But data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees puts such an argument in dispute, especially with regards to Sweden, whose commissioner was the target of social media invective from supporters of the migrant pushbacks that the Maltese government attempted earlier this year.

At a total of 9,000 asylum claims between 2008 and 2012, Malta's burden is not comparable to that of France, Germany or Sweden - respectively 232,000, 201,000 and 153,900 claims over these same years.

But as a percentage of Malta's small population, the numbers appear different. In 2012, the island received 2,060 claims for protection - a total of 4.9 claims for every 1,000 persons living here.

This means Malta has the most claims in Europe (expressed as a percentage per 1,000 persons).

But two countries rank near Malta: Sweden, with its 9.5 million population, which in 2012 took 43,890 claims (a 48% increase over 2011) - putting the ratio there at 4.6%. And then tiny Luxembourg, whose population is similar to Malta's, is at 4%, with 2,050 claims.




Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.