The Times of Malta has posted copies of an exchange of correspondence between Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici and Frontex Director Ilkka Laitinen. The Times of Malta article does not identify the source of the correspondence. It appears likely that the posted correspondence does not include all of the recent communications between Malta and Frontex. However, that which has been made available by the Times of Malta provides additional background information regarding Malta’s refusal to host a Frontex mission.
According to the posted correspondence, on 10 March, Mifsud Bonnici made an urgent request to Frontex for a new Joint Operation and deployment of a Rapid Border Intervention Team. Malta’s request however was conditioned upon Frontex agreeing to the establishment of a joint processing centre outside of Malta and an agreement not to follow the non-binding Guidelines pertaining to the surveillance of the sea external borders contained in Part II of the Annex to Council Decision 2010/252/EU.
On 29 March, Director Laitinen responded. Laitinen said that on 22 March he took the decision to deploy a RABIT team to Malta and that a fact-finding visit to Malta took place 24-25 March, but that during the visit, the Frontex delegation was informed that Malta would agree to accept a RABIT deployment only if Malta’s requests for the creation of the joint external processing centre and the Joint Operation were organised simultaneously with the RABIT deployment. Laitinen said that as of 28 March Frontex had received 10 official answers from Member States responding to Malta’s request for contribution to a possible Joint Operation and creation of the external processing centre; 9 of the answers were negative or questioned the concept of joint operation: “According to the replies – and also indicted by the number of missing replies – it is obvious that the MS consider the establishment of a joint processing centre as an issue that needs discussion and agreement on political level. It remains doubtful from legal point of view that a joint operation not applying the non-binding part of the Maritime guidelines – Council decision No 2010/252/EU – could be developed and implemented under Frontex coordination.”
Mifsud Bonnici’s initial letter was written before the first migrant boat from Libya arrived in Malta on 28 March. Presumably discussions between Malta, Frontex, and the Commission are ongoing.
Click here for Times of Malta article.
A third letter from Commissioner Malmström was also posted by the Times of Malta. It makes reference to the exchange discussed above. More on this and on Malta’s call for triggering the Temporary Protection Instrument later.