Malta had the highest positive decision rate in the EU last year when it came to processing applications for the international protection of migrants, according to a report.

Ninety per cent of the 1,590 first instance applications lodged were accepted, with the vast majority being for subsidiary protection.

This is given when there are substantial grounds to believe that, if returned to his country of origin, the applicant would suffer harm.

While the number of applications was small by European standards – considering that France decided almost 60,000 cases – they were very significant for Malta given its small population, the report says.

This emerged in the 2012 Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the EU. Compiled by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the report provides a comprehensive overview of the requests for international protection made in the EU.

Data shows that the Maltese Refugee Commissioner received a total of 2,080 applications for international protection, making 2012 the second highest year since 2001 in terms of the number of irregular arrivals on the island and the number of applications for international protection received.

Figures released recently by the National Statistics Office showed that nearly 1,900 irregular immigrants landed on Maltese shores on board 27 boats last year.

The EASO report revealed that more than 86 per cent of the applications were lodged by third country nationals who entered Malta irregularly by sea. Malta was overwhelmingly faced with applications for international protection from citizens of Somalia, Eritrea and Syria who were forced to flee their countries due to a well-founded fear of persecution or other serious human rights violations. These were therefore granted subsidiary protection.

The report states that in view of the significant pressures facing Malta, and following an inter-ministerial pledging conference organised by the European Commission in May 2011, relocation of protected people from Malta to other member states took place during 2012.

Between January 2012 and January this year, 217 people were relocated to countries including Germany, Poland and Spain.

The report highlights that there were a total of 335,365 applicants for international protection in the EU in 2012, an 11 per cent increase compared to 2011. Of these, 260,575 were new applicants.

Large numbers of appli-cations were made in Germany (77,660), France (61,455) and Sweden (43,945).

“The number of applications made in other states such as Malta (2,080), Luxembourg (2,055), and Cyprus (1,635) were also significant compared to their population,” the report says.

While Afghanistan remained the first country of origin in terms of total applicants, the significant increase of applicants from citizens of Syria led this country to become the largest single source of new applicants in 2012.

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