Malta returns group of undocumented migrants

Asylum seekers who failed to qualify for protection returned to country of origin in EU-funded operation

A group of migrants were returned back to their country of origin after failing to qualify for asylum (Photo: DOI)
A group of migrants were returned back to their country of origin after failing to qualify for asylum (Photo: DOI)

The Malta Police immigration section has returned a group of failed asylum seekers to their country of origin in a return operation.

The migrants had arrived in Malta irregularly by boat in 2019 and 2020, but failed to qualify for asylum. The process for their return began immediately once it was confirmed they were not eligible for protection and there was no risk to them if they were returned to their home country.

The return process is a complex one, especially due to the fact that they arrived in Malta without any identification documents.

Assistance was provided by the foreign ministry, and logistical assistance was provided by the Armed Forces of Malta.

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri reiterated the importance of such returns as one of the pillars of the Maltese government’s migration strategy.

“Our country has always been at the forefront of protecting those who really need protection. On the other hand, we must be in a position to use all tools afforded by law to return those who have arrived here illegally and are found not to deserve any form of protection,” he said.

Camilleri said the work to return those not eligible to stay in Malta was being done through the establishment of a specialised returns unit, and further investment in the Police Force’s immigration section. 

The costs of the return operation were covered by EU funds dedicated to coordinating returns from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

An analysis by the European Court of Auditors in 2020 concluded that less than 30% of irregular immigrants from outside Europe are returned by European Union countries. Difficulties in the return process were exacerbated by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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