Updated | 73 migrants volunteer to return to country of origin

Total of 250 migrants have left Malta voluntarily since 2009.

File photo: AFM
File photo: AFM

Seventy-three irregular immigrants who do not qualify for international protection have decided to voluntarily leave Malta and return to their country of origin this year.

Since 2009, a total of 250 immigrants have done so.

Speaking during the final conference of an assisted voluntary return programme, Home Affairs minister Manuel Mallia said Malta is ready to fulfil its international obligations but the government is expecting further aid and cooperation from its international partners.

The conference was held at The Grand Hotel Excelsior, Floriana.

Mallia said that Malta has the highest acceptance of asylum applications. "This reflects Malta's commitment toward safeguarding the concept of international protection," he said.

He encouraged the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to help increase the number of people who volunteer to leave Malta and return to their country of origin. "Firstly, voluntary return allows the individual migrant to return in a dignified manner, and secondly, it relieves the pressure on Malta. This is good for all in society including the migrants allowed to stay here," Minister Mallia said.

"The participation of IOM has been vital, ensuring that such packages are tailored to the needs of the migrants in question. The importance of properly assessing and addressing such needs cannot be overemphasised," the minister said.

The voluntary programmes offer several incentives to the immigrants, including flight tickets, legal travelling documents, counselling and a reintegration package. The latter usually includes financial aid to start a new business.  

Immigrants who spoke to IOM after they relocated said they were grateful to start their own business in their native country. In most of the cases, it also seems that they have been disappointed from their opportunities in Malta.

Parliamentary Secretary for EU funds Ian Borg, thanked the IOM for their contribution. He noted that if EU funds are used well, they could address some of the irregular immigration challenges.

The Director General Operations from the Ministry for Home Affairs, Mario Caruana, stated that Malta is continuously seeking to establish cooperation agreements with countries of origin. This cooperation revolves around border management, voluntary return programmes and cooperation on the repatriation process.

Caruana stated that new civil conflicts such as the latest developments in Syria entail new modus operandi of traffickers that the authorities have to face.

Since 2002, it was reported that Malta received 17,000 irregular immigrants, of which 2,800 arrived in 2008 only.

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