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http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20100429/local/malta-quits-frontex-mission

Thursday, 29th April 2010

Malta quits Frontex mission

EU commissioner queries decision

Ivan Camilleri, Brussels

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström regrets Malta’s decision to pull out of this year’s Frontex anti-migration patrols and will be using tomorrow’s visit to delve deeper into the matter.

She described Malta’s decision to pull out of the Chronos mission in the Sicily-Malta-Libya strait as « a pity » and said the island had a lot to benefit from such missions.

« I would like to get to know more about what’s behind Malta’s decision. I want to know whether this decision is just based on the fact that no illegal immigrants have arrived so far this year or whether this is related to the new guidelines we have put in place a few weeks ago, » she said.

The Times reported yesterday that Malta had pulled out of this year’s Frontex-led anti-illegal migration patrol mission after four consecutive years of participation. Following this decision, the EU agency decided to cancel the €9 million operation.

Though Malta’s decision to pull out arrived just weeks after the EU approved a new code of engagement to be used during such missions, which was opposed by the island at EU Council level, the government said this was not the reason why Malta decided to quit.

The government said the decision was based on the fact that, following the introduction of joint patrols between Italy and Libya last year, the number of illegal immigrants reaching the island dropped drastically. And as long as the joint patrols in Libya’s territorial waters remained effective it felt there was no more scope for Malta to take part in Frontex missions.

Statistics show that while during 2008 a total of 84 boats with 2,775 illegal immigrants arrived from Libya, the number declined to 17 boats and a total of 1,475 illegal immigrants in 2009.