News | Sunday, 30 May 2010

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Frontex – irregular crossings to Malta down 83%

AFM expecting calm season as ‘migration weather’ sets in

Frontex, the European Union’s border protection agency, has registered a clamorous 83% decrease in irregular migration from Libya into Malta and Italy, one of the main routes for human trafficking and refugee movements into Europe.
The agency, participating in the European Border Guards’ Day held earlier this week, proudly stated that the sharp decline in migration was largely due to the global recession, which severely impacted the “pull factor” of employment.
Since 2008, Malta has registered a significant decrease in asylum applications, along with other southern Mediterranean member states. But there are large decreases in Hungary, Finland, and Belgium (over 40%).
But it also said that naval patrols in the Mediterranean, particularly around Malta, had created a “strong deterrent effect”.
Malta will not participate in any Frontex missions this year, after having pooled its resources along with other EU member states for four Nautilus missions since 2006.
As one of Europe’s main entry points for migration, Malta was conspicuous by its absence at the conference this Tuesday in Warsaw, Poland, which was addressed by Frontex’s director Ilkka Laitinen.
Malta will no longer host Frontex missions after the European Parliament approved a controversial set of new guidelines for search and rescue operations, which stipulate that rescued migrants must be disembarked in the mission’s host country instead of the closest port of call.
In the meantime, the mood inside the Armed Forces of Malta appears to be one of cautious expectation, as one insider described it.
“Nothing is happening, because the Italians are effective with joint patrolling, donations of sea vessels, and hands-on training,” an informed officer said.
Developments on the Libyan sea-front, where the Italian army is engaged in joint repatriations of migrant traffic, seem to be veiled in a suspicious secrecy. The same officer said “we don’t know what the Italians are doing”, and as the first months of 2010 saw no significant migrant arrivals, observers feel the situation may not alter radically.
There seems to be consensus that the deal forged between the Italian and Libyan leaders has stemmed the migrant tide in the Mediterranean.
Today, the sharp decline in irregular migration towards Italy has seen a shift to Greece, which now accounts for 75% of all detections of illegal border crossings in the EU, according to Frontex’s Annual Risk Analysis report. Turkey is now the most important transit country for illegal migration to the EU, and it has signed a bilateral agreement with Greece on repatriation.
The number of illegal immigrants entering Europe has fallen significantly over the past year, according to the EU’s border control agency, Frontex.
A third fewer people were detected attempting to cross external land and sea borders of member states in 2009, the organisation said at a conference in Warsaw today.

Frontex registers success
Frontex was set up five years ago to co-ordinate border control efforts across the union. Last year, there were 106,200 detections of illegal border crossings at the sea and land borders of the EU – a decrease of 33% compared to 2008.
Most of the migrants were Albanians (40,500), while Afghans and Somalis were the next most numerous, with 14,500 and 9,100 ‘detections’ respectively.
But Frontex says that illegal migrants in the EU ‘conservatively’ number between three and six million, 80% of which are living in the Schengen area.
Frontex director Ilkka Laitinen praised borders guard across the EU with a “simple thank you.”
“Guarding borders is a hard job... It requires unusual ability, dedication, sensibility, compassion, intelligence, and a high degree of technical training.”
He also expressed regret at the negative feedback border guards tend to receive. “Too often border guards find themselves the target of criticism in the media or elsewhere… Indeed, it is rare that they are thanked for work that they do.”


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