UNHCR urges Malta to develop a vision for the national asylum system

UN’s Refugee Agency urges government to push for EU solidarity on the basis of a clear vision for the asylum system in the country.

Jon Hoisaeter, UNHCR representative to Malta, has flagged the necessity of having contingency plans ready in case of a sudden arrival in Malta of a higher number of people fleeing the Libyan conflict. “UNHCR is also preparing its own plans and should it become necessary we are ready to assist with establishing additional temporary reception arrangements if asked by the Government.”

He was taking part in a debate organised by the Times of Malta on Wednesday morning on the Libya migration crisis, together with justice and home affairs minister Carmelo Mifsud Bon­nici and  Michael Falzon, Labour spokesperson for immigra­tion.

As of 25 April, total of 615,939 persons fled the Libyan conflict to neighbouring countries with a total of around 6,000 individuals arriving to Malta and Italy so far.

“In terms of numbers one can understand that this is not necessarily considered a crisis or a mass influx from a broader European perspective. Nevertheless it is clear that the current situation does pose a significant challenge for a small country like Malta.”

Hoisaeter added that given the size of the country some form of Europe­an solidarity arrangements will have to be part of the solutions scenario for refugees in Malta. “The fact that around 1,000 people have been resettled or relocated to other countries from Malta in the last few years is a clear sign that there is support available.”

The UNHCR representative pointed out that the time had come to move on from ad hoc emergency type of responses towards an approach of sustainable management of asylum and migration is­sues. “A comprehensive solutions policy should also include further facilitation of integration in Malta,” Hoisaeter said.

“It is natural that Malta engages in the European debate on asylum and im­migration, in particular including as regards the need for support and solidarity between EU member states.

“Malta should enter into this discussion on the basis of a clear vision for the development of its own national asylum system. This way other countries may also be more ready to respond to requests for support.”

Hoisaeter emphasised that while important progress has been made is several areas, from UNHCR’s per­spective the track record of Malta is not only a positive one:

“In our view Malta has through the years rightly been criticized for its detention policy which is among the most severe in Europe. Also the reception condi­tions for those who arrive in search of safety are far from adequate. At this very moment some of the fami­lies with children who have arrived from Libya have been sheltered in tents within an industrial hangar. This is not what you would expect in an EU country.”

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RJ how would you really know that he is a Somali if he does not have any papers? They should have stayed and fought their own wars like the Europeans and others do and not run away and invade our country. They could easily go to another African country but they are only economic migrants. That's why they come to Malta and Europe and not because they are real refugees. Why don't they choose other oil rich countries in the Middle East? God forbid that we ever have to defend our country with such weaklings.
The Maltese government lack of the resources and the finances to give top accomodation to immigrants. On the other hand if the UNHCR or any other organization is interested in funding hotels or retreat houses such Mount St Joseph to keep immigrants there......
@haha. Your username says it all - A joke. I will try to avoid getting into the complexity of the issue with you. But for the sake of clarity - if a Somali person arrives in Malta without regular documents, how exactly are you going to send him back to Somalia if there is a civil war - just as like in Libya? They are usually granted protection and so you can't call them illegals ...
Jon Hoisaeter go tell i tto the marines and stop interfering in our internal affairs. The only asylum policy acceptable to most Maltese citizens is the repatriation of all illegal immigrants. If you like you can take them to your own country and lead by example and not empty words.
Why does.nt bark at Hoisaeter bark st the US; it takes escaping Cubans back to Cuba, it stops illegal immigrants from Mexicao crossing over to the US by spreading electrified barbed wire. Australia sends its illegal immigrants to remote islands hundreds of miles away from civilisation. France and Italy have sent thousands of poor Roma people back to Romania and Hungary. Stop buullying us Sir. When the Interantional community gets rid of passports and controls we will do the same.
Just in case it was not obvious my comment was addressed to the always very positive lady Louise Vella
My vision for the commentary section of maltatoday and other online news outlets is one without your obnoxious and boring comments. Don't you have anything better in life than attack humanitarian organizations and refugees?
My vision for the national asylum system is one without UNHCR interference. UNHCR has never replied to the Depasquale Report on the Safi riots which speaks of the role of then UNHCR representative Michele Manca de Nissa. UNHCR has never explained why it sided so blatantly with Spain and against Malta during the Spanish trawler standoff. I expect the Maltese elected government (and not UNHCR) to defend Malta's national interests.