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Portelli says that widespread repatriation of migrants doable

Studies 'available online'

Frank Portelli handing in his nomination to PN secretary general Rosette Thake.

Frank Portelli handing in his nomination to PN secretary general Rosette Thake.

Nationalist Party leadership candidate Frank Portelli failed to provide any basis for his statement that 80 per cent of migrants in Malta have no claim to international protection and should be repatriated.

Speaking on Dissett last week, the former MP and PN executive president said he did not believe in multiculturalism and would repatriate the vast majority of migrants on the island.

Contacted by the Times of Malta, he did not say where his figures came from or how such widespread repatriation could be carried out while respecting Malta’s international obligations.

“Studies carried out show that 80 per cent of immigrants will never be able to receive refugee status and if I were in a position of power I would repatriate them immediately,” Dr Portelli told this newspaper. Asked which studies he was referring to, Dr Portelli said they were “available online” but would not elaborate.

According to figures published by the National Statistics Office in June, 83 per cent of asylum applications processed last year qualified for protection and historically this rate has never been below 50 per cent. UNHCR estimates that fewer than 30 per cent of the roughly 19,000 migrants who arrived by boat from Libya since 2002 remain in Malta.

If I were in a position of power I would repatriate them

Beneficiaries of protection have a right to a travel document and many opt to leave Malta on their own initiative. More than 2,800 have been resettled or relocated to the US and other EU member states. Due to such resettlement, the make-up of the remaining migrant community could contain a greater share of failed asylum seekers but migration experts told this newspaper it was unlikely to account for the massive swing required to sustain Dr Portelli’s claim. He insisted that widespread repatriation was possible.

“We’ll do what Australia does,” he said. “They send you back and send the bill to your government. If you arrive here and your papers aren’t in order, you should get sent back. The first thing I will do is inform all the embassies that if any of their nationals have no right to be in Malta, they have to take them back. I will tackle the problem head on.”

Repatriation of failed asylum seekers has often been fraught with complications due to issues with the country of origin or the migrants’ identification. Just last December, several Malian migrants who had been arrested with a view to their deportation were released from detention after a delegation from the African State could not successfully identify them.

Dr Portelli’s comments on Dissett, where he also referred to a recent brawl in Buġibba as evidence that migrants were “bringing their wars to Malta”, have provoked controversy. Former PN candidate and political commentator Manuel Delia accused Dr Portelli of stoking racial hatred and said his proposal was “reprehensible on moral grounds [and] economically counter-productive”. Rival leadership candidates Chris Said and Adrian Delia have distanced themselves from the remarks, although both stressed that all migrants should obey the law of the land.

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