152 refugees leave Malta to start new life in Germany

Migrants relocated to Germany under EU pilot programme

Refugees and other protected migrants at the Malta International Airport preparing to leave for Germany.
Refugees and other protected migrants at the Malta International Airport preparing to leave for Germany.

A total of 152 refugees today left Malta to start a new life in Germany under the European Union intra-EU relocation pilot project for Malta.

The majority of the migrants were Somali, Ethiopian, Eritrean and Sudanese and had fled Libya during the country's civil conflict earlier this year and given protection in Malta.

The group was made up of 51 families, including 36 children - mostly toddlers and a newborn - and 14 single persons.

Home Affairs and Justice Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici said Malta had committed itself to the protection of migrants fleeing the Libyan uprising. "Malta's collaboration with Germany is granting these people a future. This is a major step forward in their integration, and shows that integration can help and social and cultural barriers can be overcome."

Mifsud Bonnici said the EU's commitment to help relocate the refugees was a strong sign of European solidarity. So far, a total of 315 migrants were relocated from Malta, with the number expected to go up by another 150 by the end of this year.

Germany has relocated 20 persons in 2006, 11 in 2009, 96 in 2010 and a further six earlier this year.

The minister added this commitment shows Malta is not alone in trying to help and reintegrate asylum seekers.

German Ambassador Dr H. Ziegler described the relocation as an important moment for refugees, who were hopeful for a new life after a long period of waiting. He added the rainy weather was a sign of good luck as Africans believe rain means luck.

Mifsud Bonnici added the refugees should keep up their courage and overcome hardships they may face in their new life. "To integrate in a completely different society might be a culture shock ... to understand what it means to live in a democratic European country."

Angel Oropeza, the International Organisation for Migration representative for Malta and Italy, said this was a happy day for everyone. "They had to go through a lot of suffering and had to flee their country because of persecution."

Turning to the migrants, Oropeza urged them to be good citizens. "Malta has sheltered you, and Germany has now offered you a new home. Be good citizens."

While waiting at the departure gates, the refugees showed enthusiasm and had no words to describe their feelings. A young man from Somalia, Sabrye, said he looks forward to find a job in Germany by which he could help his family back home.

He thanked Malta for the hospitality and added he would come back to Malta for the holidays.

The Maltese government received limited 'pledges' from European Union member states back in May to take asylum seekers who recently arrived in Malta from Libya, with Germany offering the majority of placements for protected migrants to start a new life.

Over 1,000 asylum seekers poured into Malta fleeing the effects of the Libyan conflict, leading to the European Commission 'inviting' member states to make pledges of resettlement.

The turmoil in North Africa prompted an influx of 6,000 boat people to Lampedusa. As arrivals climbed to 28,000, both Italy and Malta asked the European Commission to invoke a 2001 EU Directive, called for other countries to share the burden by granting temporary protection to some of the refugees. The European Commission said the directive, invoked during the Kosovo war, was premature.

Italy responded by issuing the migrants with temporary resident permits, which saw a movement of a group of Tunisians further up into France.

But on 17 April, France temporarily blocked the train carrying the Tunisians over the border from Italy.

France's threat to suspend its Schengen obligation to allow free movement of those with valid papers saw the Commission cede to the pressure by considering suspending the Schengen borders in 'emergency situations'.

WEll, 153 people is a lot of people for little malta. When is Europe going to take the other 5,000 to 10,000 migrants off our hands. Malta is way full up.
This good news. Hope there are more EU states ready to shoulder the burden, but solidarity is just another word in the dictionary. 158 down thousands to go.
John Mifsud
Something tells me that the Bundespresseamt will not be plugging this story in the German media.........