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EU countries should share influx of illegal immigrants: Malta

[JURIST] Malta's Justice and Home Affairs Minister Tonio Borg [official profile] urged his EU counterparts to help alleviate the influx of illegal immigrants to Malta Tuesday, as the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council [EU materials] began a two-day meeting [agenda, PDF; background, PDF] in Luxembourg to discuss EU policy on illegal immigration and other matters within the Council's portfolio. Borg's plea follows a high-profile incident in which 27 migrants were left stranded at sea floating on fishing nets for three days. Malta has received widespread criticism from other EU members for its refusal to rescue the migrants; Malta said they were outside its search and rescue region and rebuked the other EU members for placing an disproportionate burden on Malta to deal with the larger problem of the safety of illegal migrants from North Africa. Borg is expected to propose an agreement by which EU members would assume the responsibility of taking in illegal migrants saved at sea by EU members on a proportional basis dictated by the EU member state's population size. European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security Franco Frattini [official profile], who previously joined in the criticism of Malta for not rescuing the migrants, described the proposal as a "bad signal" because it would encourage migrants of North African origin to risk sailing the Mediterranean knowing that the EU would rescue the migrants and distribute them amongst its member states.

Malta's permanent representative to the EU, Richard Cachia Caruana, sent a letter to the European Commission this week saying that Malta has rescued 237 migrants in 10 separate incidents in just the last 15 days. Malta, which became an EU member in 2004 [JURIST report], is the smallest member of the EU in both population and area. Reuters has more. The Times of Malta has local coverage.

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