Irregular immigration has been a cause for concern for quite some years now, especially for countries situated in the Mediterranean region. EU member state governments have noticed that despite the amounts of illegal immigrants entering the EU borders has increased year on year, the EU has not yet developed a feasible solution to effectively tackle this problem. In this regard, EU member states are taking decisions on their own and in their best interest.
Irregular or illegal immigration refers to the movement of persons entering into an EU territory illegally without the necessary travel documentation. According to FRONTEX, the border surveillance agency, the Mediterranean region has three major migratory routes which are the Eastern, central and western routes. The central Mediterranean route is the most used. Malta is a transit country for migrants arriving from Africa into Europe.
Statistics show that since 2003, Malta hosted 17,646 migrants by boat and received a total of 23,443 asylum applications. It is estimated that since 2003, Malta has received on average a total of 1,650 applications per year. An asylum application is a right granted to illegal immigrants to apply for protection. The Refugee Act gives the right to an illegal immigrant to obtain protection in two forms either by being given a refugee status or else, subsidiary protection. Illegal immigrants, who manage to obtain protection via asylum applications, are given a right to a travel document and may opt to leave Malta on their own will and relocate in another EU member state or another country such as the United States.
Illegal immigration has long been a heated topic of discussion in Malta. Opinions will vary drastically and you will find both extremes, those who say that we should cease all entry to the country whilst others say that all illegal immigrants in distress should be provided refuge. From one side, we have those arguing that Malta could not possibly sustain more influxes of illegal immigrants, whilst on the other hand, we have those who state that the problem seems only to be associated with illegal immigrants of a certain skin colour, whereas with other foreigners we have no problem. As long as the foreigners coming in bring with them a certain value for the economy, we are fine with that.
The situation reached a point of high tension a few years ago when current Prime Minister Joseph Muscat played a push back card, something he withheld following pressure from several parties. The fight against illegal immigration seems to be gaining further ground as several far-right ideologies across Europe are becoming more popular.