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Malta calls for regional approach to migrant arrivals

Friday, July 12, 2013

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Malta's prime minister called for a regional approach to tackle the flood of African immigrants landing on the shores on the tiny island after meeting EU and Libyan officials on Thursday.

The meeting was held two days after the European Court of Human Rights stopped Malta from repatriating migrants on two flights, saying it was a breach of their right to seek asylum or protection.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has warned the EU that Malta is prepared to use its veto on unrelated issues to force the bloc to show solidarity with Malta in dealing with the migrants.

Some 600 migrants, many from Somalia and Eritrea, have arrived on the island of 400,000 people in the past week. Some 2,000 arrived last year.

Many of the migrants begin their journey to Europe from Libya, often sailing in rickety boats across the Mediterranean to Malta or the Sicilian island of Lampedusa to seek a better life in Europe.

Muscat is due to hold talks with Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta on Monday after a joint meeting with President of the EU Council Herman Van Rompuy and Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Sadiq Abdelkarim Abdulrahman Kreim on Thursday.

"We need a regional approach and we need to tackle the problem at source. Libya must not be seen as part of the problem, but part of the solution," Muscat said, adding he was encouraged by the understanding being shown by the Libya.

Van Rompuy told special sitting of the Maltese parliament that "Europe is listening to Malta's concerns". He said he agreed that assistance to Malta could not be just financial.

Malta is insisting that other EU countries take some of the migrants that to Malta, especially as their destination is ultimately mainland Europe.

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