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    Men evacuate a rubber boat with the help of the crew of the Topaz Responder ship run by Maltese NGO Moas and the Italian Red Cross during a rescue operation of Migrants and refugees on November 3, 2016, off the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean Sea

    Malta Pledges to Tackle Root Causes of Migration as Crisis Deepens

    © AFP 2019 / ANDREAS SOLARO
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    The Maltese Government - which took over the revolving presidency of the EU, January 1 - has pledged to shake up the EU's immigration system, which has so far failed to live up to live up to promises, with record numbers of migrants attempting the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean.

    Malta hosted the International Summit on Migration in Valletta, November 2015, in an attempt to rally support for a common approach to the root causes of migration, with plans to address destabilization, forced displacement and irregular migration in Africa, by promoting economic and equal opportunities, strengthening resilience of vulnerable people, security and development.

    European Council President Donald Tusk speaks at a news conference after the Valletta Summit on Migration, followed by an informal meeting of European Union heads of state and government in Valletta, Malta, November 12, 2015
    © REUTERS / Yves Herman
    European Council President Donald Tusk speaks at a news conference after the Valletta Summit on Migration, followed by an informal meeting of European Union heads of state and government in Valletta, Malta, November 12, 2015

    However, more than a year on, the latest estimate from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) shows that over half a million sea-borne migrants have entered Europe via the Central Mediterranean route linking North Africa to Italy. This year's totals almost certainly will top 180,000 — making 2016 the busiest year for this route since the current migration emergency began.

    ​According to the IOM, 358,403 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2016 through 21 December, arriving mostly in Greece and Italy. The 4,913 deaths in the Mediterranean through December 21 indicate a 2016 average daily death toll of nearly 14 men, women and children per day.

    Undetected Drownings

    IOM believes many more deaths at sea may have gone unreported this year — in the Mediterranean and elsewhere — particularly between North Africa to Spain, where data collection this year has been sporadic and many smaller vessels are believed to have been lost without detection. 

    "This tragedy reminds us that the humanitarian emergency involving thousands of people dying while trying to flee Libya is not over. In 2016 the number of arrivals by sea in Italy has kept growing, but the number of migrants dying is up dramatically: over 5,000 people have died in 2016, compared to 3,777 deaths registered in the same period last year," said IOM Rome spokesperson Flavio Di Giacomo.

    "That is nearly more than 2,000 more than in 2014, another year when over 3,000 men, women and children were lost on this dangerous passage," he added.

    The Maltese Government says it will keep up pressure on EU member states to strengthen the Common European Asylum System, revise the Dublin Regulation (which stipulates that refugees mist be processed in the EU country of arrival) and make the European Asylum Support Office into a fully-fledged European agency.

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    Tags:
    EU-Turkey migrant deal, refugee crisis, migrant crisis, International Organization for Migration, European Council, European Union, Libya, Italy, Spain, Europe, Mediterranean Sea, Malta, Greece
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