According to information presented by Maltese Justice Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, 1,451 migrants have reached Malta during the first five months of 2011. There were no arrivals during the first two months of the year. 819 people arrived in March, 288 in April, and 347 in May. Most of the migrants were Somali (411) and Eritrean (280).
In a separate statement, Maltese Refugee Commissioner Mario Guido Friggieri said that a total of 1,530 migrants in seven boats have arrived in Malta to date in 2011. This would suggest that there have been 79 migrant arrivals so far during the month of June.
Friggieri also reported that the Refugee Office has received 600 applications for protection of which 420 have been decided: 5 migrants have been granted refugee status, 370 granted subsidiary protection, 8 granted temporary humanitarian protection status, and 1 was granted “special protection.” 36 applications have been rejected. 91% of the applications for protection decided to date have been approved in some fashion.
As of the end of the month of April, there were 1,048 migrants being detained in detention centres and 2,294 in open centres.
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On Thursday last week, a Maltese AFM patrol boat searching for survivors from Wednesday’s sinking of the migrant boat near Lampedusa encountered another migrant boat with 171 migrants and removed the migrants from the overcrowded boat. The rescue occurred approximately 54 nautical miles from Lampedusa and 91 nautical miles from Malta. The Maltese patrol boat attempted to disembark the migrants at the closer port in Lampedusa but was denied entry into the port. The migrants were then taken to Malta – an eight hour sail from Lampedusa. Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, Malta’s Interior Minister, accused Italy of reneging on its “legal and humanitarian obligations” due to its failure to allow the migrants to be taken to the closer port. The migrants involved have said they are Eritrean and Libyan. If accurate, these may be the first Libyans to have been detected leaving by sea.
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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 or on this link (Mifsud Bonnici Ltr – 10 March 2011 ) for the letter from Mifsud Bonnici to Laitinen.
Click here or on this link (Laitinen Ltr – 29 March 2011 ) for the letter from Laitinen to Mifsud Bonnici.
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.
Click here or on this link ( Malmström Ltr – 1 April 2011 ) for the letter from Malmström to Mifsud Bonnici.