EU states to resettle 323 asylum seekers, Labour dubs conference 'failure'

Germany to take 100 asylum seekers - 11 other member states make pledges.

Updated at 8:25pm with Labour comments.

A total of 323 'pledges' have been by EU member states for the resettlement of asylum seekers, 1,000 of which found themselves in Malta due to the Libyan conflict in the past months.

Germany will take the highest number, 100, while the other countries that will take the asylum seekers are Hungary, Poland, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Denmark, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Slovenia. Non-EU countries Norway and Liechtenstein have also pledged to take asylum seekers.

But the Labour party dubbed the pledging conference, which took place on the margins of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, a failure. "Government's attitude is humiliating, having to beg for help it did not recieve. Joseph Muscat was correct when he said the European Immigration Pact had been worthless," the PL said in a statement.

Home Affairs minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici would not say whether he was disappointed or not with the pledges made. "I have seen a positive reaction from countries that have been traditionally very sceptical. 323 is substantial given our emergency. Malta remains committed to reduce the number of asylum seekers to be resettled around Europe and urges member states to show solidarity."

The process will take some time since officials from the member states must process applications according to their national criteria.

Mifsud Bonnici also defended the Schengen zone and said any changes in rules should not be to the detriment of the spirit of the liberty afforded by the EU for free movement. "Any changes should not bring new burdens on member states already suffering pressure on their borders from migratory movements."

Earlier in the day, EU member states met to make their pledges to take refugees from Malta and the region in collaboration with the United Nations refugee agency.

“I hope this will be an afternoon for European solidarity,” Malmström said at an earlier press conference in Brussels where European home affairs ministers met.

Malmström reported a “very good meeting” on her communication on migration to the ministers and the European Parliament.

“Migration is very complex and must be addressed coherently: we can’t address visa control without border control, we can’t have an asylum and immigration policy without tackling integration, and we can’t tackle irregular immigration without a decent readmission policy,” Malmström said.

The Commissioner said the North African events had put pressure on the EU to act after some 27,000 refugees and asylum seekers fled the conflict and poured into the island of Lampedusa. Malta also received some 1,000 asylum seekers.

“But we must remember that 750,000 of those who fled Libya are still that region,” referring to the Tunisian and Egyptian borders that are now exploding with refugees fleeing the conflict.

“Very few people have come to Europe but enough to make us think about how we receive and deal with them,” Malmström said.

The EC’s communication on migration, which will also include provisions for the temporary closure of Schengen borders in cases of emergency, as a response to unilateral moves by France to close its borders to Tunisian migrants who were given temporary travel documents by Italy. A group was stopped at the French border, prompting the closure of the borders.

Malmström said the EC would defend Schengen as the guardian of the European treaties. “The fact we can travel from Malta to Finland without a passport is very significant,” she said.

“But we need better controls and governance of Schengen, established better guidelines of how to interpret the Schengen acquis, and only as a last resort and under very clear conditions can we reintroduce border control that must be regulated clearly.”

The majority of EU member states agree that such border control cannot be taken by one country unilaterally, because it might trigger a chain reaction.

Denmark defended its decision to reintroduce controls at its borders with Germany and Sweden, denying that it was restoring passport checks within Europe’s open internal borders.

As European interior ministers gathered for immigration talks, Danish Integration Minister Soren Pind said his government’s decision to deploy permanent customs officers was aimed at stopping cross-border crime.

“I see a lot of drama in the European press but I am going to state things like they are,” Pind told reporters, insisting that the Schengen agreement permitted such actions. “I think that when this model is studied carefully, everyone will see that it is, if I may quote Shakespeare, much ado about nothing,” he said.

He stressed that Danish authorities were deployed as customs agents, not border police, and that their job will be to scan vehicles for any criminal activities. “This has nothing to do with personal passport controls,” he said.

Earlier, Italian minister for the interior Roberto Maroni today lamented the lack of urgency from the part of the European Commission to effect a decision for a joint Frontex patrol of the Mediterranean with Tunisia.

“All we want is concrete action,” Maroni said. “But nothing happens with the urgency required of these cases.”

Swedish minister for migration Tobias Billstrom described the current wave of migration in the Mediterranean sea as “Libyan refugees”. “This wave is different from the labour migrants coming from Tunisia to Lampedusa. This calls for a concerted EU response and I am sure we will find common ground in such a response.”

Additional reporting by Karl Stagno-Navarra

More in World
Karm Mifsud justice minister , typical nationalist begging with foreigners instead of demanding the EU to live up to its obligations.Cant wait till you and your government are kicked out of office.
Karm is always grinning like the idiot he is. Pure usless. A do nothing Minister
gbajna naqu ghan nej..
Luke Camilleri
We saw more help coming to Malta coming from Ghaddafi's LIbyain the old days than the E.U. member states in a UNION of which we are supposed to be a part off! Are we part of the E.U> or not ? Aren't we in for Better or for Worse...or just for the worst! No thanks and keep your thanks, AND PUT ACTION WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS! The Maltese can wait no longer!
We've hit the wall again.! Our European friends are not stupid, automatic transfer of illegal immigrants from Malta would mean that the floodgate would be forced open and without control. Malta is again playing a very important role for Europe; in the middle ages it was the frontier against Islam, during the First World War it was a base for the British Fleet which could enter the Black Sea-the under belly of Russia within weeks rather than months in case of conflict; a southern fortress and thorn against Nazi/Fascist dictatorship (PN's friends and allies at that time) during the Second World War. With PN in government Malta is forever hoping for a miracle that could solve its boat people problems; indeed, I bet that GonziPN and its apologists have already prepared the ex-voto motiv!
Gvern bla forza, bla determiazzjoni, bla protezzjoni lejn il poplu taghna stess. Il Gimgha d-diehla kif jikkalma il bahar sew ser tqum mewga kbira ta immigranti mil Libya. Fejn tahsbu li ser jieqfu dawn? L-EU hija farsa. Kull nazzjon jahseb ghal rasu u ma tezistix soledarjeta, mhux vera. Il soledarjeta tieqaf mal border ta kull pajjiz. Dawn in numri li ser jiehdu min ghandna jigu f'dghajsa wahda. Din dahka meta tikkunsidra il kobor ta dawn il pajjizi kumparat ma Malta. U din Malstrom mhux Svediza minghalija?....Sweden ma jiehdu XEJN???? Meta ahna ghandna cittadini min taghhom hawn qed jaghmlu il belli liri bl- i-gaming? Dawn il pajjiz ma haqux il hbiberija taghna. Qatt ma offra soledarjeta maghna. imbaghad il LAQI GVERN taghna jmur jbuslu s....u!
gvern tat talaba, xjonqosa eu issawatna. imisek tisthi karm.
323 immigranti - 175 immigranti li gbarna min hdejn Lampedusa u li zammejnihom hawn minkejja li Berlusconi qal li l Italja zbaljat. Mela bkollox hadulna 148 immigranti. Grazzi Simon Busuttil u Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici. Minghajr l effort taghkom alla biss jaf kif konna nsalvaw.....xsuccess ta konferenza.
Micheal Bonanno
@Antoine Vella. Thus spake the PN Parrot! You're really the joker here. Please do continue with your parrotism. Laughter is the best medicine!
From the comments here it appears that the Lowell-PL partnership is as strong as ever, despite half-hearted protestations to the contrary.
This is what happens when we get a failed leadership; all image and pozi with no substance! If the long list of countries pledging support would take each 40 of the 1000 we have, it would have been real solidarity. An other flop for the trumpeted 'voluntary' burden sharing! When is the gahan malti ever going to learn?
Kemm ghaddejuh bi zmien meta l PL qalilkom li dak l ftehim ma kien jfisser xejn ghax ma kien jorbot lil hadd . Kellu ragun l PL PN bloggers?
Illegal immigrants are unwanted by the Maltese. Why should other countries volunteer to have them? There is one advantage from this begging (sorry pledging) conference. When the do-gooders say and write that Malta should shoulder its "international and moral obligations" (as they like to put it) there will be an automatic reply. Other countries don't, so why should we?
looks like our PM got nothing from his private jet flight to London this week unless he did a spot of shopping that is.
Its very ironic that two non EU member states pledged to take in some immigrants while two big EU member states gave no commitment at all. Thats the big thank you we got from the latter member states. Our PM must surely reconsider now, for future reference, on what basis our little island will help these two big member states when they opportunity arises.
Dan il gvern gabna nitkarbu fil veru sens tal kelma. So what happens the next time around? Are we expected to stay asking for support whenever our facilities are filled with immigrants? This is a short term solution, and if succeeds government will say that it is satisfied and hilariously delirious about the result. However in the long term this shows that our government is incapable of showing its teeth and stamping its feet.