Brussels to propose extending relocation of asylum seekers from Malta

European Commission will propose temporary re-introduction of checks at the internal borders of the Schengen area in case of migration emergencies.

The European Commission will on Wednesday propose extending a pilot project to relocate asylum seekers from Malta to other EU member states, in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration.

A draft communication from the EC to be presented tomorrow includes proposals for burden sharing under certain circumstances, and “a mechanism for acoordinated and temporary reintroduction of [internal EU border]controls.”

The Commission however acknowledges that relocation of asylum seekers remains entirely dependent on the will of member states to voluntarily offer assistance, and that this “exposes the EU to criticism and risks undermining the trust of the citizens in the EU.”

The EC says it will monitor the continuously evolving situation and may decide, if the relevant conditions are met, to trigger the Temporary Protection Directiveto provide immediate and temporary protection to displaced persons from third countries that are unable to return to their country of origin.

The communication also includes a proposal to consider the temporary re-introduction of checks at the internal borders of the Schengen area in case of migration emergencies.

The EU may allow member states, in exceptional circumstances, to reassert some border controls that disappeared in 1995 under the Schengen treaty in response to demands for more national power to fight a wave of migration from North Africa.

In a letter to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that it may be possible to permit countries reintroduce limited controls. “The temporary restoration of borders is one of the possibilities, provided this is subject to specific and clearly defined criteria, that could be an element to strengthen the governance of the Schengen agreement,” Barroso wrote.

Barroso’s letter, dated 29 April, is a response to a call by Sarkozy and Berlusconi last week (26 April) for the EU to help the two countries deal with an influx of illegal migrants from north Africa. The two countries had quarrelled over whether to allow 25,000 Tunisian migrants to cross the border into France from Italy.

Over the past couple of days, around 2,500 migrants – most of them fleeing Libya – are said to have arrived on Lampedusa, an Italian island off Tunisia. The arrivals sparked recriminations between Italy and Malta over who was responsible for rescuing boats that had sent distress signals.

The Schengen system, introduced in 1995 after being agreed a decade earlier, abolished frontier checks between 22 EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, and is viewed by many of the 400 million Europeans concerned as one of the more tangible benefits of the EU. Britain and Ireland are not part of the system, insisting on retaining their national border controls.

Member states are allowed to freeze Schengen and mount border controls solely on national security grounds at present, a move that has to be blessed by Brussels.

In 2009, Malta issued 29,000 Schengen visas and 4,168 long-stay visas. It also issued over 4,000 removal orders between 2008-2009 but only effected 835.

Malta’s non-EU population stands at 2.7% of its population at 11,300.

More in National
avatar
The only way is to send all illegal immigrants back to their own country to close the flood gates. Otherwise we will keep being inundated by illegal immigrants and other EU countries will not take them as history bears out.