Yet the “Malta Agreement” is in force today. According to the sources of the Italian Ministry of the Interior for the relocation of migrants who land on Italian shores, the number of people redistributed in Europe between September 2019 (after the signing of the agreement) and the end of January 2020 amounts to 464. The average is 116 migrants redistributed per month, compared to 11 per month on average over the first eight months of 2019. The mechanism, explicitly defined as a “pilot project”, will be “valid for a period of at least six months and may be extended”, although it may be terminated “in case of abuse by third parties”, a term without further explanation. The agreement therefore has temporary validity. The new agreement attempts to fill in the gaps in the Dublin Regulation, which has socially and politically isolated countries like Italy and Malta with the disembarkation of migrants and their asylum procedure. Previously, migrants were registered at the hot spot of the country of arrival. If they applied for asylum, they could only apply in that country and were stranded there pending the results of their application. But the agreement reached in Malta contains a few words – such as `quotas` and `compulsory` – which have caused problems in the past. It could also prove controversial because it repeatedly involves asylum seekers and migrants rather than refugees, which could open up the system to people less likely to be granted international protection for reasons such as persecution or war. In addition, this plan focuses on a mechanism for rotating ports of entry, unlike the “nearest port”, a practice used so far, with Italy, Malta and Greece often being the main ports of arrival. The agreement also contains another topic that is at the centre of the debate; any returns. If asylum is refused, returns are managed by the country of destination and not by the country of arrival.
The new agreement was announced on Monday evening at the Maltese port fortress of St Angelo. Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, was also present and the Finnish Minister of the Interior, who currently holds the EU Presidency. The agreement provides that people arriving from Libya to Italy or Malta via the Mediterranean will first be distributed to Germany, France, Italy, Finland and Malta through an agreed quota mechanism. Even for those covered by the agreement, the situation is far from certain. Isolated from the population, they are transferred to Italian and Maltese reception centres where they are first subjected to a security investigation. The refugees will be investigated for links to terrorism by EU police teams, most of whom come from Germany. They will then be distributed to EU countries within four weeks and only then will the asylum procedure itself begin. At the Justice and Home Affairs Council, held in Luxembourg on 8 October, a large number of European countries did not join the agreement and declared that they were not prepared to take in rescued migrants. .