Valletta Agreement

On 12 November, European and African heads of state and government signed an agreement to set up a trust fund to support the development of African countries and encourage them to take back migrants who have arrived in Europe. The Fund has provided EUR 1.8 billion in aid, while an additional EUR 20 billion in development aid has been allocated each year. [7] Heads of state and government also pledged to take steps to improve the situation in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, Lake Chad and other parts of Africa to reduce the flow of refugees. They also promised to promote regular migration channels and implement measures to integrate migrants into society. [6] The mechanism, which is expressly defined as a “pilot project,” is “valid for a period of at least six months and may be extended,” although it may be terminated “in the event of abuse of third parties,” a clause without further explanation. The agreement therefore has a temporary validity. Nevertheless, the “Malta Agreement” is now in force. According to the Italian Ministry of the Interior, for the relocation of migrants arriving on Italian shores, the number of people redistributed to Europe between September 2019 (after the signing of the agreement) and the end of January 2020 amounts to 464[1]. The average is 116 migrants redistributed per month, compared to an average of 11 per month for the first eight months of 2019. The four States want to stress that this new mechanism, “which at the same time addresses the need to protect human life and to help anyone in need”, will not open irregular routes to European shores and will avoid the creation of new factors of attraction. In addition, the agreement aims to improve aerial surveillance of the southern Mediterranean to combat “smuggling networks for migrants, human trafficking” and reduce the risk of tragic maritime accidents. There are also certain requirements for all vessels involved in rescue operations, including “not obstructing search and rescue operations of official coastguard vessels, including the Libyan coastguard, and providing specific measures to protect the safety of migrants and operators.” Other EU member states (for example. B Luxembourg, Portugal and Ireland) have already expressed their willingness to take in asylum seekers who are rescued by NGO vessels on the high seas and then transported to the Italian coast and are expected to join the agreement.

The main commitment of the agreement (paragraph 1) is to “establish a more predictable and effective temporary solidarity mechanism to ensure the dignified landing of migrants embarked on the high seas by ships in a safe place”. Therefore, the agreement does not apply to migrants who manage to reach European shores on their own, who are by far the vast majority of migrants. For example, according to the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), in the first six months of 2019, only 8% of migrants arriving in Italy were rescued by rescue boats. The redistribution process is not just for people who already have refugee status. If those rescued are not eligible for international protection (about 80% of all those rescued), they are subject to an “effective and rapid return”. However, if asylum is refused, returns are managed by the destination country and not by the country of arrival, which implies a redistribution of return costs, which is a significant aspect. At the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 8 October, many European countries did not accede to the agreement and said they were not prepared to take in rescued migrants. The countries of Northern and Eastern Europe, in particular, have reaffirmed their strong opposition to any plan requiring the reception of migrants.

Bulgaria, Cyprus and Greece complained that the four countries that met in Malta only deal with the problem of migrants rescued in the central Mediterranean and landing in Italy and Malta, not those who arrived in Europe via other Mediterranean routes (for example.B.

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