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NEWS | Wednesday, 27 May 2009

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Borg and Frattini to hold talks with Libya in Rome

Malta’s and Italy’s foreign ministers yesterday met in Rome to finalise preparations for an upcoming meeting with Libyan counterpart Mussa Kussa for a trilateral meeting on immigration.
Tentatively scheduled for 9 June, the meeting will discuss a proposal for both Libyan authorities and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to determine asylum inside the North African state before asylum seekers leave the continent.
Italian minister Franco Frattini said Libya had to be involved “if we want to stop the repatriation of people who face risks in the country, such as Eritreans.”
Both Italy and Malta were at loggerheads with each other after Italy claimed Malta should take in all migrants in distress saved within its search and rescue zone.
After a widely criticised forced repatriation of migrants into Libya, Italy is now trying to secure a deal to process applications for asylum inside Libya. Frattini claimed Libya accepted the principle of asylum determination, even if it was not a signatory of the 1951 Geneva Convention, the instrument which lays down the universal right to claim protection from other states.
Foreign minister Tonio Borg said both Italy and Malta wanted to hammer the importance of responsibility-sharing within the EU. “We know that 95% of immigrants arriving in Malta have lived for many years in Libya,” he said, adding that it was necessary to reinforce the UNHCR office in Libya.
Borg also claimed to have ascertained “Libya’s readiness towards a greater collaboration against clandestine immigration” some three weeks ago.
He said Malta backed Italy’s policy to immediately repatriate migrants rescued in international waters. The two ministers congratulated Libya for having, in the past few weeks, collaborated for solutions to be found to this human tragedy.
The Italian Bishops’ Conference has criticised Italy’s immigration policy. Chairman Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, said the “irrepressible value of every human life, its dignity and its inalienable rights’” should be the “fundamental criteria”’ with which to evaluate the arrival of illegal immigrants.


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