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Brussels warns Malta that push-backs are illegal, willing to discuss further assistance

Cecilia Malmstrom

Cecilia Malmstrom

The European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom has expressed “extreme surprise” over comments by the prime minister in the wake of the arrival of 300 migrants last week and his backing for 'push-back'.

Replying directly to questions by The Times of Malta, Ms Malmstrom said that Dr Muscat’s recent comments are “extremely surprising" and could mislead public opinion on the efforts of the European Commission to help Malta deal with this problem.

She said that the Commission had warned the prime minister that “push-backs would be illegal.”

“Push backs would be illegal as they would be against the principle of non-refoulment of the Geneva Convention on Refugees and against the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), as confirmed in a recent judgement against Italy." 

Inviting the Prime Minister to “check the facts”, Commissioner Malmstrom denied ever expressing any views that could lead one to think that Malta did not deserve EU solidarity or support on asylum and migration issues.

In a statement later, she said the European Commission will use all the tools at its disposal to make sure member states fully respected their obligations in this regard.

"We also stand ready to increase our support to Malta if it should face growing migratory pressure. Should Maltese authorities ask for it, we are ready to engage in discussions on further measures, be it financial support or assistance through the European Asylum Support Office and Frontex."

More in The Times of Malta tomorrow.

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