1,000 migrants could face repatriation – Muscat

Up to 1,000 migrants in Malta face possibility of being repatriated if EU summit agrees on timelines for implementation of migration action plan.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat arriving at Justus Lipsius building
at the start of the first day of the European Council. (Photos -  DOI / Jeremy Wonnacott )
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat arriving at Justus Lipsius building at the start of the first day of the European Council. (Photos - DOI / Jeremy Wonnacott )

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat today said that up to 1,000 migrants in Malta have had their asylum claim rejected and face being repatriated if the EU leaders agree on implementing a repatriation programme in this week's summit.

Speaking at the end of the first session held today. he explained that Malta's main priorities were discussions with third countries such as Libya and the repatriation of migrants who have had their asylum application rejected.

Insisting that Frontex and the EU have so far been passive on this front, Muscat said that the EU must not only organise and fund the flights but "it must also issue the necessary documentation to have these migrants repatriated."

Asked whether mandatory burden sharing was still on the cards, Muscat played down the possibility of the EU leaders accepting this demand, blaming the previous PN government which in 2009 had accepted that burden sharing should not be mandatory.

Muscat said that Malta "is starting with a handicap," and insisted that the country's demands and expectations should be realistic.

"We still need to negotiate to have these proposals included and endorsed in this council's conclusions. There's still a lot to do and it's too early to sing victory."

Earlier this month, the task force of EU member states identified a slew of actions to address the flow of migration from Africa into Europe, which will include both repatriating failed asylum seekers as well as "outsourcing" the processing of their claims in transit countries.

On Friday, the council is expected to endorse the 38-point action plan drawn up by the European Commission task force following Malta and Italy's insistence to put migration on the agenda after migrant tragedies in the Mediterranean.

The 38 "operational actions" established by the task force however do not include mandatory burden sharing mechanism, which the Maltese and Italian governments have been calling for.

"If the 38 proposals are accepted we need to agree on the timelines and there is resistance to have these included in the commission's conclusions. We need to move from pie in the sky proposals to a clear timeline, with determined actions and timelines."

He added that "if we manage to achieve this, although nothing should be taken for granted, we will still chase the commission to have these proposals put into action."

Muscat said that Malta was also insisting on introducing migration in the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Muscat said that EU leaders discussed strengthening operations in Somalia, from where a substantial number of migrants reach Europe and strengthen the surveillance of the seas and the Libyan desert with unmanned drones.   

On the European Court of Human Rights' recent sentence in which it recommended that Malta should improve the conditions at detention centres and shorten the appeal process, Muscat said that "detention is the only buffer" which addresses European people's concerns on the possibility of terrorist groups infiltrating European borders by applying for asylum. 

Mr Joe should stop playing with words like the past administration did and put the immigration and the repatriating of illegal immigrants on the ballot and let the people vote on what they think, through a referendum vote. These illegal immigrants came here uninvited and although some are eligible for legal asylum a lot more are nothing but opportunists looking for a better life and slowly but surely they are ruining ours in the process. If the EU has anything to say about this they should let these illegal immigrants go to the EU State of their choice and not hold them here in Malta under false pretenses to protect the other EU States. These illegal immigrants are stealing our way of life. It does not take rocket science to figure this out.
I cannot understand why the EU refuses Malta the right to repatriate those who do not deserve asylum. Is this what Metsola, Casa and Simon worked hard for with their EU buddies. Most probably most NGOs are PN supporters and these three don't want any of them losing a job at our expense.
"1,000 migrants could face repatriation" Why 'could' and not 'have to'???