Italy – IOM Director General William Lacy Swing will arrive in Malta on Sunday, 3rd November, to discuss with the government the latest developments concerning migration in the Mediterranean and to explore ways for effectively managing mixed migration flows and addressing the migration-related challenges faced by Malta.
During his one-day visit, Ambassador Swing will be meeting Dr. George Vella, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Emmanuel Mallia, Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, Dr. Helena Dalli, Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties as well as Dr. Robert K. Visser, Executive Director of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). A visit to the Hal Far open migrant centre is also scheduled.
This official visit follows the tragic events of October 2013 in the waters between Libya, Malta and Italy, where hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers lost their lives. The events drew renewed attention to the plight of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean as they attempt to make their way to Europe on unseaworthy vessels operated by smuggling and trafficking syndicates.
In the immediate aftermath of the latest boat tragedies near Malta and Lampedusa, Ambassador Swing visited Italy, where, during meetings with Pope Francis and government representatives, he called for urgent steps and intensified cooperation among all actors to prevent these tragedies from continuing.
He called on European Union (EU) states to address the situation of migrants attempting life-threatening journeys highlighting the plight of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as other vulnerable groups, including victims of trafficking, unaccompanied minors and people fleeing poverty and seeking better life opportunities.
“We need to change our mentality and recognize that migration is a process to be managed and not a problem to be solved. Migrants have been tragically losing their lives in the Mediterranean for several years and this is continuing. Priority must therefore be given to save the lives of migrants: we must find ways to respond in solidarity with people escaping from often desperate situations,” said Ambassador Swing.
“As IOM we call for an increased dialogue and cooperation with the EU and among countries in the southern Mediterranean, countries of transit and origin, to improve preparedness and national responses for the protection of all migrants, irrespective of their legal status. Our focus should be a renewed commitment within existing EU-supported mechanisms on relocation, resettlement and regional migration dialogues,” he noted.
“IOM also strongly supports the recent call of European Parliament President Martin Schulz for the enhancement of legal avenues for migration for migrants seeking better prospects in Europe, which also constitutes a pragmatic measure against trafficking and smuggling in human beings,” he added.
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Flavio Di Giacomo