A group of people who arrived in Malta irregularly were returned to their country of origin by means of a return operation coordinated by the Malta Police Immigration Section. The return of these people was carried out by means of a flight from Malta.
The migrants originate from outside Europe and arrived in Malta irregularly by boat in 2019 and 2020. Their asylum application was processed in the subsequent months by the International Protection Agency. The process for their return began immediately once it was confirmed that they were not eligible for protection and there were no risk to them if they were returned to their home country.
The return process is a complex one, especially due to the fact that they arrived in Malta without any identification documents. An analysis by the European Court of Auditors in 2020 concluded that less than 30% of irregular immigrants from outside Europe are returned by European Union countries. Difficulties in the return process were exacerbated by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite these obstacles, intensive work by the Police Force and the Ministry of Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement made it possible for these people to be returned to their country of origin. Assistance has also been provided by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs in matters concerning the diplomatic aspect. Logistical assistance was provided by the Armed Forces of Malta.
During a visit to the security officials who escorted the migrants, the Minister of Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement Byron Camilleri reiterated the importance of such returns as one of the pillars of the Government’s migration strategy.
“Our country has always been at the forefront of protecting those who really need protection. On the other hand, we must be in a position to use all tools afforded by law to return those who have arrived here illegally and are found not to deserve any form of protection” said the Minister Camilleri.
He explained the work being done by government to return those not eligible to stay in Malta, mainly through the establishment of a specialised returns unit and further investment in the Police Force’s Immigration Section, as announced in the budget.
The costs related to this operation were covered by European Union funds dedicated to coordinating returns from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.