Mifsud Bonnici pays tribute to Italy-Libya pushbacks in reducing immigration

Justice and Home Affairs Minister says more is needed to reduce immigration influx.

Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, Minister for Justice and Home Affairs, today met Melchior Wathelet Belgian State Secretary for Migration & Asylum Policy, for bilateral talks.

Mifsud Bonnici welcomed the delegation, to be able to “witness first-hand” the state of immigration in Malta.

“Immigration is a European problem… Thanks to the Italian-Libyan agreement, the migratory influx has decreased this year,” Mifsud Bonnici said.

“Nevertheless, concern is still necessary and attention should be paid to strengthen EU institutions for a better and stronger response to these situations.”

Mifsud Bonnici also welcomed the opening of the EU asylum office in Malta and reiterated the importance of the EU’s border guards contribution to Frontex.

In his own address, Wathelet affirmed the importance of "seeing the effects of immigration first-hand, and how countries are dealing with it."

He described Malta as a "special country" with regards to asylum and immigration, explaining that various pilot projects have been based here and special considerations taken for the country's unique situation.

He said how currently, immigration is one of the most sensitive European issues - something that is felt particularly come election time.

"The issue needs to be taken seriously and considered responsibly, but there is no one solution," he said. "Countries need to combine European and national initiatives to find a solution."

In this, Wathelet said, the ESU Asylum office would have to play a part.

He conceded that sometimes, things might not be "moving as fast as Malta would like."

Referring to the harmonizations of asylum processes and conditions, Wathelet  affirmed that it is a necessary developed that will address "country shopping" - where immigrants 'chose' which country to try and reach due to increased likely hood of receiving asylum status.

He affirmed how, like Malta, Belgium too is under "high pressure" from asylum seekers. "We too need to be specially considered by Europe as well."

He thanked Malta for supported Belgium in this regard.

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