Number of migrants may soon increase drastically
The number of asylum seekers reaching Malta from Libya could increase drastically in the coming months if predictions by the Malta-based European Asylum Support Office prove to be correct.
In its first annual report, EASO said yesterday that, while last year’s Arab Spring had a limited impact on the EU, “in 2012/2013 EU member states may witness an increasing number of asylum seekers from that region”.
Sources close to EASO said that, if the crisis in Libya persisted and the country did not return to normality in the coming months, many sub-Saharan migrants in the country could be tempted to leave.
“Malta will be exactly on their route, even though the majority of asylum seekers would have continental Europe on their radar,” the sources said.
This year, Malta has already experienced a substantial number of migrants crossing to Europe from Libya. Latest statistics show that 1,065 migrants have reached Malta this year, with the majority claiming asylum.
Last year was also not easy for Malta and, apart from having to coordinate a massive humanitarian operation to help people fleeing the Libyan conflict, the island also had to deal with hundreds of migrants turning up on its shores.
EASO said that, due to the uprisings in the North African region last year, thousands of migrants and asylum seekers landed in Lampedusa and Malta. Arrivals by boat from African shores were also reported in Greece.
The report states that the total number of asylum applications in Malta for 2011 reached 1,890, a substantial increase over 2010, when just two boats reached the island.
“Unlike previous years, a large percentage of irregular migrants and applicants for international protection who landed in Malta in 2011 were established in Libya and left the country due to the conflict,” the report said.
The nationalities of those who arrived in 2011 were Somali (411), Eritrean (280), Nigerian (238), Ivorian (114) and Ethiopian (103).
The EASO report also deals with the administrative aspect of the EU agency, Malta’s first such body. The agency has already recruited about 40 employees, mostly foreigners, and last year spent about €5 million in Malta.
Malta won the bid to host the EASO in the face of stiff competition from Cyprus and Bulgaria.