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© Alberto Favaro

EC Representation in Malta

EU expects more solidarity towards asylum seekers
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07/12/2011 12:34:15

The European Commission is proposing to reinforce solidarity between Member States in the field of asylum and to make sure protection is guaranteed for people in need of shelter.  The events of the Arab spring, and the rising number of migrants arriving in Malta and the Italian island of Lampedusa, have put the issue of solidarity in the asylum field in stark focus during the past months. These events stressed even further the need for a Common European Asylum System and highlighted a lack of mutual trust between Member States.

    Solidarity has to be at the core of EU asylum policy and the European Commission is working in this direction. Even though common rules are, to a large extent, already in place, asylum solidarity between EU member states is still far too weak. Some countries' asylum systems do not function well enough. Other countries simply accept far too few asylum seekers, for example, in the first half of this year, over 75% of all asylum applications were made in only 6 Member States (France, Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Italy), meaning that many EU members could take a far greater share of the responsibility. In addition, unforeseen events can over-stretch the capacity of any Member State and the European Union has to be prepared to support these Member States, so that people who arrive are received in dignity.

    According to The Times, Malta received 1,632 asylum applications between January and June and was among the top three southern European countries affected by migration from Tunisia and Libya. Most of the applications were filed in April when Malta received 1,126 requests for asylum.

    Writing in the same newspaper, Darrell Pace, communication coordinator at the Ministry for Justice, and Home Affairs, said that the living conditions inside Malta’s detention centres have improved significantly these past few years. He added that the Hermes block in ─Žal Far was totally refurbished and remodelled in a year-long project that was largely financed by the European Union’s Emergency Fund. A new reception complex, again financed by the European Union, was also built in Ta’ Kandja. The average time frame for the processing of asylum applications at first instance now stands at approximately five to six months, he concluded.

    The European Commission proposes to improve asylum systems through the interaction of EU legislation, an enhanced practical cooperation and a better use of EU funding mechanisms.

    Drawing on lessons from the Union's reaction to the migratory consequences of the events in the Southern Mediterranean, the Communication emphasises in particular the need for better coordination between Union agencies such as, Frontex, Europol and the Fundamental Rights Agency. A reinforcement of cross-agency cooperation is important both when reacting to emergencies and in proactive work, such as risk analysis and early warning capacity.

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