Thursday, March 30, 2006

MEPs to make proposals to help Malta with immigration problem

Tema: L-immigrazzjoni
Sorsi: El País, EU Observer

MEPs to make proposals to help Malta with immigration problem
30.03.2006 - 09:30 CET By Aleander Balzan

EUOBSERVER/BRUSSELS - Members of the civil liberties committee in the European Parliament are to make proposals to amend an EU asylum law in a bid to relieve pressure on Malta, where they say refugee numbers are "overwhelming".

The MEPs will present this proposal after having visited detention centres on the island last week.

They were shocked by the conditions.

"I have never seen something comparable in my life" French socialist MEP Martine Roure told EUobserver. "The migrants are locked away in what could be described as cages. They have nearly no possibilities to get out."

"I would not spend one minute in those conditions, let alone 18 months. So the government's detention policy is, in part, contributing to an escalation of the situation," said Italian leftist MEP Giusto Catania.

But the MEPs also noted that Malta, the smallest member of the union, is not getting enough help from the EU.

"Malta is not helped enough by the EU. The number of immigrants arriving in comparison to its population is overwhelming, "said Ms Roure.

The MEPs are going to suggest a change to EU law, so that illegal immigrants who stop in Malta, but then move to the continent, should have their refugee application processed in another country.

This means that other member states should take refugees who have landed in Malta.

Currently, EU law prescribes, under the so-called Dublin Two regulation, that the first country which receives immigrants should process the application.

Ms Roure is calling for a derogation of Malta from the Dublin Two regulation.

"I want to ask Commissioner Frattini to improve the Dublin Two regulation so that small countries like Malta do not have to deal with refugee problems alone," added Ms Roure.

Vice-President of the Civil Liberties Committee, Stefano Zappala, also intends to propose that Malta is considered as a transit state.

The Committee will also call up on EU justice ministers to have one of their regular meetings in Malta rather than Brussels so they can see the situation with their own eyes.

Currently, more than 1,100 immigrants are being detained in Malta – which has a population of about 400,000.

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