A new chestnut: Malta has limited integration prospects for refugees

Home Affairs Ministry says migration burden is down to the high rate of protection for Horn of Africa migrants: ‘Malta has limited integration prospects’.

Government now claims the glut of asylum claims from the Horn of Africa that's the problem.
Government now claims the glut of asylum claims from the Horn of Africa that's the problem.

Manuel Mallia's Home Affairs Ministry has told MaltaToday that Malta's "high proportion" of positive decisions to asylum claims is posing a challenge to society because it has to "integrate the beneficiaries of international protection."

The statement comes in reaction to MaltaToday's report last Sunday on asylum claims in Sweden, which are only slightly less than those Malta gets, when considered in proportion to the population.

FULL REPLY BELOW

Last year, Malta received 2,060 claims for protection - a total of 4.9 claims for every 1,000 persons living here. Sweden, with its 9.5 million population, took 43,890 claims (a 48% increase over 2011) - putting the ratio there at 4.6. And then tiny Luxembourg, whose population is similar to Malta's, has four claims per 1,000 persons (2,050 asylum claims).

But every government has its own immigration chestnut: the Nationalists complained that the equivalent of 1,000 asylum seekers in Malta (population 415,000) was 144,578 in Italy (population 60 million) - the 'reasoning' suggests that the tremendous extrapolation for Italians made Malta's 1,000 asylum seekers an equally tremendous burden.

Labour's new reasoning adds a new twist: it's the actual refugees who are being given international protection, as laid down in Maltese legislation, that constitute the problem. According to a government reaction to MaltaToday, the real yardstick is not the amount of claims but how many of those claims are positively decided.

"A large number of asylum claims are a challenge to the asylum determination authorities, because they have to interview the applicants to determine each case individually.

"But positively determined cases [read: refugee or subsidiary protection to asylum seekers] are a challenge for society in general, which must of course integrate the beneficiaries of international protection, who would be staying in the host society in the longer term.

"This is the area in which Malta has sought the support of the EU and its member states, on the grounds that Malta has a high asylum recognition rate, whilst being a small state with invariably limited integration prospects."

As pointed out by the Ministry for Home Affairs, "asylum pressures cannot be measured only in terms of asylum claims" but more importantly by positive decisions, that is, the amount of refugees and other asylum seekers awarded some form of protection.

In fact, UNHCR statistics for 2012 confirm that Malta received up to 4.9 claims per 1,000 inhabitants, which figure is not only the highest among the EU member states, but among the 44 industrialised countries covered by the UNCHR data.

The ministry also says that in 2012, the average for the EU-27 was 0.6 claims per 1,000 inhabitants (a population of 500 million) - while between 2008 and 2012, Malta received 21.7 claims per 1,000 inhabitants and the EU average was 2.6 claims. But it's an easy comparison to make: any country has a larger population than Malta's.

"Malta has not only received a high number of asylum claims, but a very high proportion from persons hailing from conflict regions, mainly in the Horn of Africa," the ministry said, pointing out that such persons cannot be returned to their homes in Somalia or Eritrea, and therefore require protection in Malta.

"Malta has had a consistently high asylum recognition rate, hovering between 50 and 60%, which rate increased to a record 90% in 2012. It should be noted that the EU average asylum recognition rate for 2012 was 28.2%, whereas that for Sweden was 39.3%," the ministry said.

In 2012 the Commissioner for Refugees gave protection to 90% of the 1,590 cases that were decided that year. A backlog of some 500 cases was carried into 2013.

That same figure was as low as 32% back in 2002, and for the years thereafter averaged 57%. In 2010, the recognition rate was 64%, but that same year only 47 asylum seekers were brought into Malta, after Italy started operating its illegal pushbacks.

A total of 4,267 Somali nationals and 1,208 Eritreans made asylum claims in Malta between 2008 and    2012, comprising the two largest nationalities of asylum seekers.

"These percentages do not in any way impinge negatively on any individual EU member state or the EU as a whole, for recognition rates are dependent on applications received; however they do demonstrate that Malta is subject to disproportionate asylum pressures - more so than other EU member states."

Reply to MaltaToday online article

Reference is made to the article on the online edition of MaltaToday titled "Sweden's asylum burden and Malta's proportionately the same," which article seeks to compare Malta's asylum pressures with other EU Member States, in particular Sweden. The article is correct insofar as Sweden did indeed receive a large number of asylum applications in proportion to its population; even so, the numbers, always judged in proportion to population, still fall short of Malta's figures.

In fact, UNHCR statistics for 2012[1] indicate that Malta received up to 4.9 applications per 1,000 inhabitants, which figure is not only the highest among the EU Member States, but among the 44 industrialised countries covered by the report.  It bears noting that the average for the EU-27 in the same year was of 0.6 applications per 1,000 inhabitants. UNHCR statistics also confirm that Malta received the largest number of asylum applications for the period 2008-2012, with a total of 21.7 applications per 1,000 inhabitants, with the EU average being of 'only' 2.6 applications per 1,000 inhabitants.

It is therefore evident that even when considering asylum application statistics alone, which is precisely what was done in the abovementioned article; Malta is subject to disproportionate asylum pressures, even more so than any other EU Member State. However, asylum pressures cannot be measured only in terms of asylum applications received, as it is equally, if not more important to take into consideration the proportion of positively determined asylum applications.

A large number of asylum applications mainly comports challenges for asylum determination authorities, which authorities must interview applicants to determine each case individually. However, positively determined cases comport challenges for society in general, which must of course integrate the beneficiaries of international protection, who would be staying in the host society in the longer term. This is the area in relation to which Malta has sought the support of the EU and its Member States, on the grounds that Malta has a high asylum recognition rate, whilst being a small State with invariably limited integration prospects.

This is where the abovementioned article has completely failed in delivering an accurate picture of the asylum scenario in Malta. Throughout the years Malta has not only received a high proportion of asylum applications, but a very high proportion of asylum applications filed by persons hailing from conflict regions, mainly in the Horn Africa. Such persons cannot be returned to their respective countries of origin, further to requiring international protection. For this reason Malta has had a consistently high asylum recognition rate, hovering between 50 and 60%, which rate has increased to a record 90% in 2012. It should be noted that the EU average asylum recognition rate for 2012 was 28.2%, whereas that for Sweden was 39.3%[2].

These percentages do not in any way impinge negatively on any individual EU Member State or the EU as a whole, for recognition rates are dependent on applications received; however they do demonstrate that Malta is subject to disproportionate asylum pressures- more so than other EU Member States.

Finally, it should be noted that the article is also inaccurate with respect to the prohibitory injunction issued by the European Court of Human Rights. By the time such prohibitory injunction was received no decision had yet been taken by the House of Representatives vis-à-vis the migrants referred to in the article.

[1] UNHCR, Asylum Trends 2012, Levels and Trends in Industrialised Countries

[2] Eurostat Newsrelease 96/2013- 18 June 2013

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