Urgent talks in Malta on Frontex rules
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Urgent talks in Malta on Frontex rules

New Malta-hosted mission codenamed Chronos put on hold

Emergency talks will be held in Malta later this month to try and iron out the differences between the island and the European Commission over the controversial guidelines for the Frontex anti-migration patrols.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has decided to visit Malta on April 30 "to hold a day of meetings with the Maltese authorities on the Frontex issue", Commission sources said.

Ms Malmström had already announced she would continue speaking to Malta over the Frontex guidelines because she considered the island an important player in the fight against illegal immigration, a Commission official in Brussels said.

"Ms Malmström has decided to personally visit Malta later this month to engage the government in more talks to try to find a solution acceptable to both parties," the official said.

Ms Malmström's main meetings in Malta are expected to be held with Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, although she is also expected to meet Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and MEPs.

Malta had objected to the rules at Council level and even abstained in the final vote after the Commission accepted its request to make them non-binding. However, the Council still adopted the new code of engagement for asylum seekers found on the high seas as other member states, with the exception of Italy, gave the green light.

The guidelines entered into force last month following their approval by the European Parliament.

Though the majority of MEPs supported a counter resolution moved by Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil to reject the new rules, the required qualified majority was not reached because the Socialist group supported the guidelines.

According to the rules, illegal immigrants and asylum seekers rescued on the high seas during future Frontex missions will be taken to the member state hosting the mission and not to the closest safe port, as was the practice until last year.

This means if Malta continues to host the central Mediterranean mission, as it has been doing for the past years, it would have to host all the immigrants plucked to safety from the sea.

Following the EP's approval, the government declared it had no intention to host any future Frontex mission under the new rules.

The Times is informed that a new Malta-hosted mission codenamed Chronos, which had to start this month, has been put on hold awaiting the conclusions of Ms Malmström's talks in Malta.

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