Friday, 1 July 2011

Malta JHA Minister blog post

On 19th June, Malta's JHA Minister Hon. Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici posted the following on his blog.  We're reproducing his post in full.

Asylum Office is step forward

Hon. Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, taken from his blog.

Since Malta joined the EU on May 1, 2004, at least two major steps forward towards European integration have been made, namely accession to the Schengen area and the adoption of the euro as our national currency.

The Ministry for Justice and Home Affairs was a major stakeholder with respect to Schengen accession. Today, it has the honour of seeing another initiative in which it played a leading role come to fruition – the inauguration of the European Asylum Support Office in Malta.

The unanimous decision for the European Asylum Support Office to be located in Malta was taken on November 30, 2009, at the Justice and Home Affairs Council, pursuant to a proposal by the Commission to establish such an office.

The Commission proposal itself was in direct response to the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, which provided for the establishment of a European support office with the task of facilitating the exchange of information, analyses and experience among member states, and developing practical cooperation between the administrations in charge of examining asylum applications.

In fact, the European Asylum Support Office will seek to facilitate, coordinate and strengthen practical cooperation among member states on the many aspects of asylum, as well as to provide operational support to EU members subjected to strong pressure on their asylum systems.

Needless to say, Malta stands to benefit from such provisions, particularly in the context of the renewed migratory flows being experienced this year as a result of the crisis in Libya. Indeed, the European Asylum Support Office is expected to take an active and leading role in future intra-EU resettlement initiatives.

The European Asylum Support Office is expected to initially employ 40 persons at its premises in Marsa, with the staff complement increasing gradually to between 80 and 100 by 2013. Apart from the obvious economic benefits, Malta naturally stands to gain in enhanced exposure and status that inevitably follow in the wake of the setting up of a prestigious EU agency.

Today’s inauguration of the European Asylum Support Office is therefore a historic occasion for Malta that provides further tangible evidence of Malta’s meaningful presence in the Europe Union.

This achievement has been made possible thanks to the dedication and hard work of many. Their efforts have paid dividends, and another step has been made in the process of European integration.

However, this is not only an achievement for Malta, but for the European Union as a whole. The establishment of the European Asylum Support Office constitutes recognition of the fact that asylum requires a Europe-wide approach, as opposed to a purely national approach, a point that the government has consistently stressed.

It is not sufficient for the European Union to set asylum standards while leaving member states alone to cope with the ­pressures involved; Europe’s approach must also be hands-on. This indeed is precisely what the European Asylum Support Office will set out to do.

The establishment of the European Asylum Support Office is particularly important in the context of current developments in the legislative sphere at the European level, as the European Union is working on the establishment of a Common European Asylum System.

De facto such a system can only yield the desired results if all the member states work together and if those facing disproportionate asylum pressures, like Malta, are provided with the necessary assistance in a spirit of solidarity.

Clearly, such actions do not only benefit individual member states, but also beneficiaries of international protection who have escaped persecution or violence in their countries of origin.

Our objective, as a Union, is to establish a Europe of asylum, and today marks a very significant step forward in that direction. I am proud of the key role that Malta is playing in this regard, a role fully consistent with the country’s excellent track record in the field of humanitarian assistance.

I, therefore, look forward to seeing the European Asylum Support Office expand its operational activities in the coming months. The government will continue supporting the office as necessary in order to ensure that our shared objectives are met.

Dr Mifsud Bonnici is Minister for Justice and Home Affairs.


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  2. Welcome, thanks for the comment.