Malta will not tolerate lack of EU solution on migration, Commissioner Johansson told

In meeting with EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Prime Minister Robert Abela says Malta needs the European Commission's help in dealing with 'disproportionate' irregular migration burden

Home Affairs European Commissioner Ylva Johansson
Home Affairs European Commissioner Ylva Johansson

Malta can no longer tolerate the situation where it disproportionately deals with the burden of irregular migration without the help of other EU member states, the Prime Minister said today in a meeting with Home Affairs European Commissioner Ylva Johansson.

Robert Abela, who on Tuesday met with Commissioner Johansson who is in Malta on a short visit, lamented that “no concrete action” had been taken in terms of finding a European solution to the migration issue, despite many discussions having been held.

“I’m stating the obvious when I say Malta is facing disproportionate and immediate pressure when it comes to irregular migration,” Abela said, highlighting that a thousand such migrants had already arrived in Malta up to this year.

“The problem is ever more worrying in the context of our size and population density,” he said, underscoring that the island’s reception centres were “practically full.”

The EU had to shift from a “management by crisis” approach, which Abela said was the Union’s current modus operandi, to an “agreement which guarantees a holistic approach.”

The matter had to be dealt with through both a focus on the external dimension - namely through cooperation with other countries and better border control - and an internal dimension, whereby the EU had to demonstrate that it learnt its lessons from the past, he said.

“This is a European problem, not Malta’s. We are discussing a European border,” he said.

Abela noted that he was involved in discussion within the European Council last week on cohesion, where the principles of solidarity and reducing disparity where underlined.

“Unfortunately, these principles seem not to apply to irregular migration,” he said, “Member states which face a disproportionate burden are left to themselves.”

“We cannot tolerate this any longer. No concrete action has been taken,” Abela stressed, “I ask the European Commission, to help us.”

‘Absolutely possible’ to manage migration - European Commissioner

Commissioner Johansson said that it was “absolutely possible” to manage irregular migration, but acknowledged that it was “very challenging” and that there was an issue of a lack of trust between member states when it came to the issue.

Johansson said she had held dialogues with all member states - with her visit to Malta having been the last in the line of meetings - and that she now felt more optimistic that a solution could be reached than she did previously.

“Governments are listening and trying to understand the way forward and search for a compromise,” she said.

She pointed out that it was “unacceptable” that the Commission’s proposed asylum reform has been blocked before the European Council for the last three and a half years.

“My task is to unblock the situation, and I’ve reached out to all member states on this,” she said.

The matter of irregular migration had to be “de-escalated” and treated like a policy area, she said. “We have to be pragmatic and find pragmatic solutions.”

The Commissioner said that it had to be taken into account that member states were facing “very different geographical realities”, and that those countries which were in a more difficult situation had to be supported. “This is my aim,” she said.

Johansson added, however, that any way forward would have to be accepted by all EU members. “It is difficult, but possible,” she remarked.

More in National