Pamela Hansen | Sunday, 28 September 2008

More EU pie in the sky

The EU has again proved that it has no clue as to serious solutions to the immigration problem facing our tiny state. The latest offering of a non-binding pact on migration burden sharing, which is also meant to make border controls more effective while building a better asylum policy, is still very much pie in the sky.
Frontex, the European Agency for the Management of Operational Co-operation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union, has been manifestly unsuccessful. It will be interesting to learn how border controls are to be made more effective.
“Better reallocation of beneficiaries of international protection from Member States, which are faced with specific and disproportionate pressures on their national asylum systems, due in particular to their geographical or demographic situation to others, on a voluntary and co-ordinated basis,” is what the Pact states should happen.
While the wording sounds good one must consider how many will be considered worthy of international protection. All this agreement has done is pave the way for the allocation of legal immigrants (those who are deemed “deserving protection”) to be based on a state’s needs and ability to welcome people.
The answer to combating illegal immigration is to remove them. Easier said than done! And how long will it take for the paving to be established.
Besides, it seems to me that it is illegal immigration that should be based on a state’s needs and abilities to welcome people, since that is the bigger problem.
I have the same reservations expressed by the Labour Party. It is dissatisfied that the burden-sharing mechanism was voluntary and not binding on member states to participate; the mechanism would apply only for recognised refugees – when most of the migrants who arrived in Malta were not refugees; there were no timeframes for the new mechanism to come into force and no resources had been allocated to it.
These reasons have no racist connotations whatsoever, despite the allegations being thrown about.
The government is insisting that the number of those being granted international protection was increasing and that, therefore, the proposed non-binding pact mechanism would be applied to most of the immigrants who arrived in Malta. An excess of 60 per cent of migrants were expected to be granted protection this year.
But that still leaves about 40 per cent who will have to be repatriated. The Pact states that the migrants who did not deserve protection would be repatriated to their country of origin through specific funds and assistance provided by the EU, in accordance with budgetary procedure.
This might satisfy the many who are close to suggesting we get closer to the concept of the Nazi concentration camps. But it will not satisfy the humanitarians who will want to be sure that the “deserving protection” criteria are sound.
Meanwhile, the onslaught of racist online comments and sympathy expressed with far-right, would-be politicians, continue to fill online partisan-based commentaries.
Ironically, while these people show no solidarity with African people in need they expect solidarity from the EU. This oh so Catholic country that is so pro-life and anti-divorce is also home to many people with some very non-Christian sentiments. “Please stop playing the Christian card. Nobody cares about it”, a Times on-line commentator responded to the few humanitarian appeals, on Friday.
The government is hailing the Pact as a historic agreement, stating its importance would not be diminished by the MLP. Adding, that the timeframes for the burden-sharing mechanism would be set once the Immigration Pact was given the final seal of approval by the European Council next month.
However, Justice and Home Affairs Minister, Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici cautioned that, “although this is a very important political step ahead, it’s not a final conclusion in itself.
“We have managed to put burden sharing on the EU agenda as part of its policy and this was not easy in the EU context. Obviously, we will now continue to exert pressure and promote our views.”
He is though confidant that member states will participate in this new mechanism, despite the pact being non-binding. I would not be so optimistic, since previous experience has shown that Nations are quick to agree, but not so fast on acting on their pacts.
United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon recently said, “Member states are not meeting their commitments”, when launching a report on aid to Africa (the crux of the immigration problem).
Out of the richest 22 countries to commit to donating 0.7 percent of their overall national income to aid, only Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have actually done it.
Commitments to help Africa in particular have lagged. Although the group of eight industrialised nations pledged in 2005 to donate more than $25 billion to Africa by 2010, only $4 billion has actually been delivered.

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