Malta, Libya In Immigration Talks

Malta, Libya in immigration talks
AFP Published:Aug 22, 2007

VALLETTA – Malta and Libya have begun two days of talks in Tripoli on how to deal with the hundreds of boat people who issue distress calls between their shores each year, the commander of the Maltese armed forces said.

“Malta and Libya share a common SAR (search and rescue) region boundary, and concluding such an agreement would be beneficial for the maritime community and all those making use of the sea,” Brigadier Carmel Vassallo told AFP.

An agreement, proposed in February by a Maltese-Libyan joint commission, would cover the issues of respective SAR responsibility, requests for assistance and coordination, training and information exchange.

Since the start of the year, the Maltese armed forces have rescued more than 1,000 boat people up to 90 nautical miles from the island, while another 120 landed on their own power.

Dozens die each year in attempts to reach Europe from north Africa.

Vassallo said the possibility of Libyan SAR officials training with their Maltese counterparts in the Mediterranean island state was also on the agenda of the talks.

Military sources in Malta hailed the fact that Libya had requested the talks.

Malta, the smallest of the 27 European Union (EU) member states, has been criticised for its policy of not accepting illegal immigrants saved from third-party search and rescue zones.