The meeting called on the 12th of May will tackle Malta's intra-EU resettlement pilot project. The summoned meeting aims at encouraging other member states to show 'concrete' solidarity and burden sharing with Malta.
In reaction, the Maltese Home Affairs Ministry said in a statement that this development showed that Malta was successful in presenting its arguments at EU level.
The initiative, announced by the Member of the European Commission responsible for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, follows the prolongation of the pilot project specifically designed for Malta so that member states can relocate persons given asylum status by the Maltese authorities. Even though this project was set, less than 200 relocations took place.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi was hopeful that the extension of the EU pilot project, aimed at lightening Malta’s immigration burden, will mean that larger numbers of immigrants will be resettled in other European countries.
The migratory pressure on Mediterranean countries has intensified as some 26,000 illegal migrants have arrived in Italy and another 1,000 have fled to Malta. The European Commission stated that this situation cannot be handled only at the national level but it requires the mobilisation of all Members States at the EU level.
This pressure has also raised various rows regarding migrants between Maltese and Italian Authorities, Italian junior minister has also raised concerns for Malta’s underwater electricity cable. He said that Malta’s dispute with Italy on how to deal with North African migrants could result in the project being scrapped.
The new initiatives announced by the European Commission will cover various aspects of migration, including the strengthening of border control and Schengen governance, the completion of the Common European Asylum System, a greater stress to increase legal migration, exchange of best practices for successful integration of migrants and a strategic approach for relations with third countries on migration.
Cecilia Malmström commented that said that migration offers a lot of opportunities, yet it must be managed properly. She added “This means ensuring effective border control and the return of irregular migrants. This also means that we should not leave it only up to the Member States at our external borders to deal with extraordinary migratory situations.”
The recent migratory flow has also triggered concerns about the functioning of the Schengen system, as Italy and France has proposed the suspension of this system. The Commission however said that the free movement of people across European borders is a major achievement which must not be reversed, but rather strengthened.
Commissioner Cecilia Malmström noted that “In order to safeguard the stability of the Schengen area, it may also be necessary to foresee the temporary re-introduction of limited internal border controls under very exceptional circumstances, such as where a part of the external border comes under heavy unexpected pressure."
Up to now FRONTEX has also launched a Joint Operation (EPN Hermes Extension 2011), aimed at helping Italy deal with the situation of migrants and refugees coming to Italian shores. Furthermore EUROPOL has deployed a team of experts to Italy, to help its law enforcement authorities to identify possible human smugglers among the irregular migrants having reached Italian territory.
Adding to these operations the Commission is proposing a series of initiatives covering the various aspects including the completion of the Common European Asylum System by 2012, the strengthening of border control and Schengen governance and increase legal migration into the EU.