UNHCR proposes ‘joint processing’ project for migrants’ relocation

UNHCR launch information and statistics on asylum and migration in Malta toolkit for MEP hopefuls, calls on government to develop a framework to facilitate migrants’ integration.

Among its measures to alleviate the influx of migrants in Malta, the UNHCR is proposing further collaboration among European states to manage disembarkation and solutions after rescue operations.
Among its measures to alleviate the influx of migrants in Malta, the UNHCR is proposing further collaboration among European states to manage disembarkation and solutions after rescue operations.

With migration and asylum policies topping the agenda of many Maltese MEP hopefuls, this afternoon, the UNCHR Office in Malta, in collaboration with the European Parliament Information Office in Malta, launched a toolkit on asylum and migration for Maltese MEP candidates – “a tool intended to provide MEP candidates and stakeholders with factual information on which to base positions and views.”

While underlining that the European Parliament has been repeatedly insisting on “enhancing asylum and immigration policies on a European front,” Peter Agius, the representative of the European Parliament Office in Malta, argued that notwithstanding this, the European Commission has not “presented any concrete proposals, at least not up to the ambition of the European Parliament.”

Pinpointing statistics pertaining to the arrival of migrants in Malta, Jon Hoisaeter, UNHCR representative to Malta, argued that among its solutions to the influx of migrants in Malta and Europe, the UN's refugee agency is proposing resettlement and relocation, voluntary repatriation as well as integration.

“Among its measures to alleviate the influx of migrants, the UNCHR is proposing a pilot project whereby more than one country would agree to participate in a joint rescue operation. The country where the disembarkation of migration occurs would not shoulder the responsibility of migrants alone, but instead it will take a fraction,” Hoisaeter told MaltaToday.  

Such arrangements would be based on the understanding that disembarkation takes place in the EU and does not necessarily imply sole responsibility for processing and solutions by the member state on whose territory disembarkation takes place, at least for those rescued in international waters.”

Asked whether this would still comply with the Dublin Regulation, Hoisaeter argued that countries such as Malta and neighbouring Mediterranean countries would not be demanded to comply, but instead invited to participate out of their own free will. Currently, the Dublin Regulation prohibits asylum-seeks from submitting asylum applications in multiple states.

On integration, the UNHCR representative explained that the refugee agency is calling on the government to develop a framework to facilitate integration and settlement, to provide asylum-seekers to certain services, and to provide long term planning for individuals to settle in Malta.

In addition, a day after Italy rescued 4,000 migrants, Hoisander argued that the arrivals of migrants in the first quarter is roughly ten times more when compared with the corresponding period.

“There has been bigger movement in the Mediterranean, perhaps triggered by the ensuing crisis in Syria, but whether this would reflect in Malta is mere speculation. Nevertheless, countries must be ready for all eventualities,” he explained. 

#knowthefacts toolkit

In their joint publication #knowthefacts – a booklet with information and statistics on asylum and migration in Malta, Europe and beyond, the UNHCR and the European Parliament Information Office explained that this is intended to provide MEP candidates and stakeholders with factual information on which to base positions and views.

Basing the information available on UNHCR statistics, Eurostat data and other sources in Malta, the booklet includes update information and statistics up until 2014.

“Asylum and migration issues remain high on the agenda in Malta. There are different perspectives as regards challenges and solutions. But the debate often suffers from lack of awareness about some of the basic facts,” Jon Hoisaeter, UNHCR Representative to Malta said.

Among its statistics, the toolkit highlighted that during 2013, Malta received a total of 2,200 asylum applications, while the EU received a total of 400,000 asylum seekers, 75,000 of whom were refugees from war-torn Syria.

Malta tops the list on the number of asylum seekers per 1000 inhabitants between 2009 and 2013, but recent Eurostat statistics have revealed that during 2013, Sweden saw the most asylum seekers per 1000 inhabitants.

In 2013, 2,008 migrants arrived by boat from Libya, half of whom were from Somalia. Since 20012, an estimate 18,625 of migrants arrived in Malta, while 30% of whom are estimated to be currently living in Malta.

Among its solutions, the toolkit is proposing greater resettlement and relocation – a protection tool that meets the needs of individual refugees whose fundamental rights might be at risk in the country where they have sought refuge.

While explaining that the European Union must address migration at transit countries – most notably Libya, war-torn Syria and sub-Saharan countries – the information booklet is also proposing greater voluntary repatriation and integration.

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