Migration Scenario
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Migration Scenario

Irregular Immigration Scenario in Malta


Significant numbers of irregular immigrants have been reaching Malta since 2002.

In 2008 a record number of 2,775 irregular immigrants reached Malta. 98% submitted an asylum application.
Following the beginning of the Libyan uprising - 1,579 irregular immigrants reached Malta in 2011; 1,890 in 2012, 2,008 in 2013 and 568 in 2014.
This year, in the first two quarters a total of 90 persons reached the shores of Malta irregularly by boat, however several hundred others arrived in Malta by other means of travel and asked for asylum, refugee status or other subsidiary humanitarian aid.
Most of those who arrived irregularly applied for international protection in Malta.
Asylum Claims
The majority of asylum seekers reaching Malta originate from regions characterised by instability.
Between 2002 and 2012, over 50% of the immigrants who reached Malta have been granted international protection.
Political and Institutional Framework
Various Ministries are involved in migration and asylum issues, including MHAS and MFA…
MFA is responsible for external aspects of irregular immigration and asylum policy.
MHAS is responsible for the reception of immigrants, asylum determination, returns of irregular immigrants and failed asylum seekers.
MHAS's tasks are conducted by a number of Departments :
     i.     The Armed Forces of Malta is responsible for maritime border surveillance and rescue;
     ii.    The Malta Police Force Immigration Section conducts border controls, runs the SIRENE unit and the
            Eurodac System;
     iii.   The Detention Service manages closed accommodation centres; 
     iv.   The Office of the Refugee Commissioner receives, processes and determines applications for asylum;
     v.    The Refugee Appeals Board determines appeals from the decisions of the Refugee Commissioner;
     vi.   AWAS manages open accommodation centres and provides welfare services to beneficiaries of
            international protection.
Principles informing malta's actions vis-À-vIS IRREGULAR IMMIGRATION
     Safeguarding security through border control
     Fair, just and humane treatment of migrant and asylum-seekers
     Expeditious determination of asylum claims
     Integration of beneficiaries of international protection
     Intra-EU relocation and Resettlement
     Expeditious repatriation of irregular migrants, including failed asylum-seekers
     Enhanced cooperation with third countries of origin and transit
border control and surveillance 
 Safeguarding security and safety of life at sea :
     The majority of immigrants reaching Malta claim to have started their journey from Libyan shores;
     Malta promotes cooperation in this sphere, particularly with a view to preventing loss of life at sea;
search and rescue 
The Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) is designted as the agency responsible for maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) which task requires it to coordinate the conduct of all SAR operations within the SAR Region (SRR).
Malta's SRR comprises a total of 20,5770km2.
The responsibility of Malta within the SRR is to coordinate all SAR activities using any available resources including assets of third countries and commercial shipping. Therefore it is incumbent upon Malta to have appropriate resources to conduct such coordination, which in fact is the case.
Malta has carried out numerous SAR operations throughout these years. It should be noted that the AFM has rescued around 15,000 migrants with national assets and assisted disembarkation in Malta of irregular migrants.
Malta continues to respect all its international legal obligations regarding the rescue of persons in distress at sea. 
Fair, just and humane treatment of migrants and asylum-seekers :
     Immigrants who reach Malta irregularly are subject to administrative detention
     Vulnerable persons, including minors, are not detained
     Detention period was of up to 18 months (subject to periodic review) for irregular immigrants and up to 12 months for asylum-seekers, now it is of maximum three weeks, unless special circumstances prevail.
     Upon release from detention, migrants are transferred to open accommodation centres
     Malta seeks to provide the best conditions possible for persons in detention centres and those residing at open centres
asylum process
Expeditious determination of asylum applications:

Third country nationals (TCNs) who express their intention to make an application for asylum in Malta are informed to contact the Office of the Refugee Commissioner.  Such TCNs are provided with information about the asylum procedure and assisted to fill in the registration form by this same Office.​
     As part of the asylum procedure, a personal interview conducted by the Office of the Refugee Commissioner is held with each applicant.
     The decision of the Refugee Commissioner may be appealed before the Refugee Appeals Board and free legal aid may be provided
     Until a final definitive decision has been given by the Board, the appellant is entitled to remain in Malta

For more information about the Office of the Refugee Commissioner, click here​.
rights of beneficiaries of international protection
Beneficiaries of international protection in Malta are entitled amongst others to employment, social welfare, accommodation, state education and training, and state medical care.
intra-EU Relocation and resettlement
In the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, EU Member States agreed to promote better reallocation of beneficiaries of international protection between Member States with a view to support those Member states that are subject to disproportionate pressures due to their geographical or demographic situations.
Under the first phase of the Pilot Project a total of 227 beneficiaries of international protection were relocated from Malta.
In view of the influx of immigrants from Libya and the disproportionate burden being borne in Malta, Council decided in April 2011, on a proposal from Commissioner Malmström, to extend the Pilot Project for the relocation of beneficiaries of internation protection in Malta. Approximately 350 relocation places were pleged.
260 were relocated on a bilateral basis and 14 by means of EU fundings.
Phase 1 of the project - 102 persons were relocated to Germany.
Phase 2 of the project - 153 persons were relocated to Germany.
Other bilateral initiatives - 2006 - 20 persons relocated; 2009 - 11 persons were relocated.
Malta has an ongoing resettlement scheme with the United States and so far 2,277 beneficiaries of protection have been resettled under this programme since 2007. In the first two quarters of this year, 183 beneficiaries left for the United States.
Expeditious repatriation of irregular immigrants, including failed asylum-seekers :
     Malta encounters difficulties in the repatriation process to certain countries of origin
     The main difficulty is that of obtaining the necessary travel documents. The lack of cooperation from certain migrants complicates and lengthens the repatriation process
     In this context Malta is both promoting voluntary return, complete with reintegration packages, and insisting on the need to ensure return of those irregularly present who do not opt for voluntary return
There is no single solution to the challenges posed by irregular immigration and asylum. Government therefore approaches these issues in a comprehensive manner. Such actions involve the relocation and resettlement of beneficiaries of protection, repatriation of irregular immigrants to countries of origin, enhancement of border control and pursuing cooperation with third countries. All actions undertaken take into consideration the human rights and dignity of migrants.

Contact Information:

Contact Icon Contact Name 
Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS)
Block C, Beltissebh
Floriana FRN 1700
Phone Icon Telephone
2568 7200
Email Icon Email