[WATCH] Malta's position on migration is clear and consistent, Prime Minister insists

Joseph Muscat denied that the country made any 'knee-jerk- reactions' in recent events, and said that Malta has the second largest number of asylum requests per capita

Joseph Muscat
Joseph Muscat

Malta's position on migration is clear and consistent, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said, denying that the country made any "knee-jerk reactions" in recent events.

"The country maintains the same position as five years ago," he said, explaining that its stand is based on principle.

The prime minister was speaking during a Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee (MEUSAC) core group meeting on Monday morning.

Muscat said that Malta has satisfied the quota of the European Commission with the number of migrants that it took in, and reiterated that he is not hopeful that the EU member states would reach an agreement.

"The argument that Malta is not carrying its weight is untrue... Malta is the country with the second largest number of asylum requests per capita," he said.

READ ALSO: Muscat tells Italian prime minister Malta will not take in Aquarius

Muscat said that he would be open to proposals on how to resolve the issue, as he said the current system "doesn't work".

Muscat said that the arrival of persons from Libya to Europe decreased by 78%. "This is a clear result of politics of engagement which happened on a local level."

While Malta needs to show solidarity, he said, it is important to understand that the composition of people arriving to Europe is changing.

“Economic migrants are increasing," he said, explaining that international law clearly differentiates between "genuine asylum seekers"  escaping war, and those looking for a better life. Muscat said that the latter cannot be treated with preference as it would be an injustice to those who need help the most.

The EU Council is an "extraordinary" one, EU Funds Parliamentary Secretary and MEUSAC chairperson Aaron Farrugia said, highlighting the main topics on the agenda: migration, EU budget, security and defense. EU Affairs minister Helena Dalli said that migration and the Multiannual Financial Framework are the pressing issues on the table.

Muscat said that the EU financial package is still being discussed and that the first proposal of the EU commission is a good base for discussion.

For the first time, the discussion concerns 27 countries as opposed to 28, as the contribution and rebate of the UK is being left out.

Muscat said that a number of new facts need to be taken into consideration, such as Malta's rise in GDP in recent years. However, he also added that despite the country's economic advancement, there are certain structural disadvantages which Malta has, and that cannot be helped by any amount of growth.

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