Interview with Simon Busuttil (Epp-Ed, Malta), Ep Rapporteur on a Common Immigration Policy for Europe' : For the First Time, Burden-Sharing' Is Taken into Account

Article excerpt

A port of entry in the southern Europe for illegal immigrants crossing the Mediterranean on makeshift boats, the small island of Malta (316 km2 and 400,000 inhabitants) has, for a long time, been calling for help to share the burden of the influx of migrants between EU countries. The numerous shipwrecks between Libya and Malta, and European criticism directed at La Valletta, have reopened the debate.

What does the Pact bring to Malta?

Malta has an interest in the Pact for a very simple reason: today, the European Union does not have sufficient tools in terms of immigration. In fact, we do not have a common immigration policy. Therefore, any move in this direction must be supported by Malta, as by all European countries disproportionately suffering from the burden of immigration flows. It is not so much a question of the number of immigrants, but rather of the very sensitive phenomenon of 'boat people' crossing the sea in very difficult conditions, where many people die. It is a human tragedy. If member states acknowledge that the problem is a European one, they must provide common European solutions.

Malta has obtained greater solidarity in terms of managing asylum requests. Do you believe that burden-sharing' has been taken into account this time?

For Malta, the Pact is interesting in all its aspects, its five pillars. More specifically, the Council has agreed - under pressure from the Maltese authorities - to introduce, for the first time, a reference to the need to support countries which are disproportionately affected by the pressure of asylum requests. In other words, the relocation of persons receiving international protection from these countries to other member states. Of course, the Pact mentions a 'voluntary basis' - one cannot stipulate how many will go where - but this is the first time, and this is crucial, that there is political commitment in favour of introducing an intra-European relocation scheme. As you know, today, this depends on bilateral agreements. In fact, Germany, for example, has dealt with approximately 30% of the immigrants who arrived in Malta last year. But this is different, it's multilateral.

Was it difficult to obtain?

Very difficult. Since July, when the Pact project was announced to the public, Malta has been very clear: the country would not be at ease with this text unless it included a specific reference to what Malta has been saying over the past few years. …