Frontex to help in migrants' return
Justice Ministers to discuss EC proposals today
Frontex has committed itself to help Malta repatriate illegal migrants to their country of origin.
Frontex sources said yesterday that, on Malta's suggestion, the Warsaw-based agency would soon be making a proposal to start some of its regular "joint return flights" directly from Malta.
This development, which should help Malta significantly cut the number of illegal immigrants in its detention centres, followed talks in Malta between Justice and Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici and Frontex executive director Ilkka Laitinen earlier this week.
A few years ago, Frontex started coordinating flights to repatriate illegal immigrants from EU member states. This is normally done through charter planes paid for by the EU. They pick up illegal immigrants from various member states en route to a particular country of origin. For example, Nigerian illegal immigrants in the EU, whose asylum application would have been rejected are picked up through a flight calling at Paris, Berlin and Rome and then taken together to Abuja. This system helps member states coordinate better repatriation while cutting costs.
As the flights leave from big countries, only a handful of vacant seats would remain for illegal immigrants in Malta. The sources said the idea now was to have some flights depart from Malta to ensure that as many immigrants as possible leave the island.
A spokesman for Frontex yesterday confirmed these developments following Mr Laitinen's talks in Malta.
"This is one of the very important parts of border control. Sending persons staying illegally on the territory of Malta to the countries of origin is, so to say, the closure of a border management circle," he said.
Malta has lately taken it upon itself to repatriate immigrants but this is a very complicated and costly exercise.
Besides the difficulty of verifying the migrants' identity, as many illegal immigrants do not hold any identification documents, some countries of origin, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, do not cooperate with the Maltese authorities. This results in illegal immigrants overstaying in detention until the whole bureaucratic process is over.
EU Justice Ministers will today be discussing specific proposals tabled by the European Commission last week to grant Malta and similar over-burdened countries concrete help to fight illegal migration. These urgent measures include more finances, a specific burden-sharing mechanism and more cooperation with Libya.
EU sources said some member states were still resisting the Commission's proposals particularly those related to burden sharing.