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Migrants' detention needed for security reasons - minister

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

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Home Affairs Minister Manuel Mallia this evening defended Malta’s policy of detaining irregular immigrants, saying this was the only way of safeguarding national security.

There was no immediate way of telling who the migrants were and whether they belonged to terror cells, and therefore they should not be free in the country without the necessary checking, he told a meeting of the Social Affairs Committee.

Dr Mallia said he wanted better intelligence on immigrants landing in Malta, places they frequented and people they contacted.

Dr Mallia said the EU itself had not yet looked into what branches the criminal human-trafficking organisation in Libya had in European countries. The EU needed to enhance its own intelligence. Were irregular migrants being given boats and left to fend for themselves, or were they being skippered?

Furthermore, how could one define boat people in distress before making a rescue, especially if their boats’ engines were still running?

The minister said that although Malta already had a very up-to-date system to consider and decide on migrant arrivals’ requests for asylum, in his first months at the Home Affairs Ministry he had increased asylum commissioners to six and legal aid lawyers from seven to 14. But expediting the process did not mean the problems had been solved.

Dr Mallia said the EU must keep Libya’s situation clearly in mind, because it too had its own irregular immigration. If Libya was helped to have an office where prospective migrants could make their asylum requests before attempting the sea crossing, it would cut the criminal organisations’ feet from under them.

He said irregular immigration was a vast subject with innumerable permutations in which situations could drastically change overnight. Geographically and demographically Malta could not cope with all the irregular migrants landing on its shores. What was to be done with the “surplus”? Maltese and Gozitans were not against the integration of immigrants given asylum, so long as the migrants respected Maltese laws and customs.

Immigrants became illegal when their requests for asylum were not upheld, even after appeal. But they could not always be repatriated because they lacked documentation. Malta had already made its suggestions of how to solve the problem: Frontex should be made to fly them back home, if necessary with temporary European passports.

Having in Malta representatives of such countries as Eritrea and Somalia would also help with the documentation problem.

Answering a question by Jason Azzopardi (PN), he said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had sent a note verbal to the Italian Government to press for more expeditious facilities for families involved in the latest immigrant tragedy to be reunited. It was certainly not for lack of effort by Malta.


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