Fatal journeys at sea & Maltese hospitality

It was on 2 November 2001, when one of the very first boats carrying sub-Saharan African migrants landed in Malta. Despite the fact that such a phenomenon has been part of human history for a number of years, it has only become important in recent years. This is mainly due to the evolution of globalisation which has seen an increase in mobility and European integration. Consequently, apprehension in regions found in close proximity led to people moving to a better place and thus, led to immigration.

Migration is an incredibly complex subject matter. Yet, one must appreciate that it is a very intricate matter as it is made of several different compositions such as the people involved and their status. Whilst joint EU efforts have maintained results with controlled situations when agreements are adhered to, the situation still remains fragile. This is due to various reasons such as particular countries sharing a higher burden than others, hundreds dying at sea and different countries adopting different frameworks with regards to migration.

Within this discussion, the distinction between a migrant status and a refugee status is of importance. A migrant refers to that person who leaves his place of residence hoping for a new life in another country. This would include those people moving with government permission such as for example with a visa or work permit but also those moving without, which are considered as undocumented migrants.

A refugee on the other hand, is that person running away from war, oppression, or natural disasters. International law grants such status by obliging states to grant them protection rather than sending them to a place where they are at risk. Moreover, the term “asylum” is outlined as the legal permission to stay somewhere as a refugee which in its entirety brings about both rights and benefits. It should be pointed out that even though every refugee is initially considered to be an asylum seeker, not every asylum seeker is ultimately recognised as a refugee.

Realistically, one must also acknowledge that the concept of migration affects the demography of both the country of origin and host country. This is because apart from expanding the population, it also adjusts the age pyramid of the population of the host country. As a result, this can also bring about a change in the social life of people, affecting other factors such as economic, cultural, and political. This phenomenon is referred to as social security and it transpires when a community regards something as being a threat to its identity, in this case this is seen with migration. Therefore, integration is of utmost importance. We require a strong counter-narrative, so this vacuum is not filled by far-right people who try and convince people differently.

Human rights should be at the basis of any asylum policy as having a policy which is human rights based does not contradict the rights of a state to implement policy and therefore, does not contradict state sovereignty. We should continue working towards creating an effective reception system which would aid the distribution of arrivals on European territory. Malta has showed through the modality it operated, that the technical and political aspects can be bridged together and should not be separated.

Being part of a union should mean significant things: sometimes you need help, sometimes you need to help others. One cannot shy away from the problems that there are and it is not enough to throw money at the problem, it is much more than that. This being said, actions should speak louder than words as fatal journeys across the Mediterranean have got to stop and no more lives at sea should be lost.

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