Roberta Metsola calls on EU to respond to migrant situation, EPP launches policy

The new policy proposes addressing the root causes of migration by investing in Africa, as well as securing Europe's borders with 10,000 border guards

MEP Roberta Metsola
MEP Roberta Metsola

Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola has called on EU member states to respond to the migrant situation on the bloc’s southern borders, with a new migration policy launched Saturday by the European People’s Party (EPP).

Metsola said she has been negotiating with countries across the EU to formulate the plan which the European Commission will use to launch a new package of legislation.

It breaks the deadlock of the past 10 years where border states like Malta and Italy are emphasising relocation while other, mainland, countries are refusing migrants, the MEP told MaltaToday.

The policy calls for a framework whereby those member states who are reluctant to take migrants in can use other methods of solidarity. 

“56 migrants have been saved in the Mediterranean and are now on a State-chartered Maltese ship. Their lives and immediate health are not at risk. It is a temporary measure. It is not an answer. We need permanent instruments,” Metsola said as she launched the EPP’s new approach to migration challenges.

Malta is saying that it will rescue the 56 migrants as long as they are immediately taken abroad to be assessed for their claims, but the receiving EU countries are insisting they must be assessed first, before being distributed. This, however, creates a burden on the Maltese state.

Metsola challenged Prime Minister Robert Abela to put aside partisan politics and back the new plan, that would see a new EU framework for responsibility sharing. “There is no time to waste. We got this through the EPP, now we need member states to respond and our government to step up its efforts on these lines. We cannot afford to have four Labour MEPs voting three different ways on these crucial issues and we cannot afford our diplomatic negotiations besmirched by unanswered reports of privately contracted returns to Libya.”

“In the European Parliament I am proud to have led the negotiations on behalf of the EPP. In record time, we have now found a way forward that shows agreement is possible on migration across the EU.”

The plan is backed by MEPs from across the EU, Metsola said, describing the proposals as being “rooted in principle”.

Under the proposed agreement there would be a new framework for the “fair sharing of responsibility between all Member States based on meaningful solidarity” which would ensure that coastal states like Malta, Italy and Greece are not left alone.

The destruction of people trafficking and smuggling networks and the returning of those people who are not eligible for protection back to their home countries safely are also priorities, she said, explaining that any country with a safe port on either side of the Mediterranean should have a responsibility to take on migrants.

This, however, must be combined with a legal framework to break the trafficking model, according to Metsola.

“No one should die at sea,” Metsola said, underlining that this is a global solution and all safe ports on both sides of the Mediterranean have a responsibility for disembarkation.

Priority would also be given to the EU also fast-deploying 10,000 border guards to our external borders.

Legal paths should be created for those who are required to work in Europe and for those in need of protection to seek asylum even outside of Europe, meaning they will not have to get on boats and risk their lives. “Smart management of migration requires not only a policy in addressing irregular flows while ensuring protection to those in need, but also a proactive policy of sustainable, transparent and accessible legal pathways benefiting Europe as well as the countries of origin.”

The root causes of migration should be addressed by investing in Africa, but ensuring this is linked to cooperation in migration issues, Metsola said.

“The EU needs to build on the experience so far of the EU Trust Fund for Africa and continue the work done in the African continent. It should replenish the Trust Fund for 2020 with contributions from Member States and the European Commission whilst identifying precise needs, reads the report.

“EU action should aim at contributing to the economic development of local communities and regions and thus reducing migration pressure by improving the skills and employability of potential and/or returning migrants.

“[The approach] is fair with those who need protection, firm with those who do not and harsh with those exploiting the vulnerable.We now have pragmatic, achievable, Europe-wide solutions on the table. Now we need Europe to respond and our Government to back it,” the MEP said.