Malta. EU Refugee Commissioner Cecilia Malmström visited Malta on 30 April. Malmström, who had previously criticized Malta’s treatment of refugee children, visited internment camps where children are often forced to live with adults in difficult conditions. According to aid organizations, asylum seekers also lack access to care and school.
According to COUNTRYAAH, Malta has a population of 493,559 (2019). The refugee commissioner, among other things, spoke with Malta’s Prime Minister on EU support to improve the conditions of the refugees. She described the situation in the camps as “depressing”. In Swedish media, Malmström said that Swedish authorities should stop sending unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to Malta because of the way the children are treated. However, the Migration Board continued to reject unaccompanied children to Malta in 2010.
Due to its geographical location, Malta has in recent years received large flows of refugees, most of whom come from North Africa in small boats. Although the refugees usually have a different destination than Malta, they must seek asylum in Malta, and they will be rejected if no other EU country wants to receive them. Since it is about children, Sweden has the right to make exceptions to EU rules and not to send the refugee children back to Malta, Malmström said.
Malta has received harsh criticism from, among others, Amnesty International and the UN for its treatment of asylum seekers, and has in turn demanded more help from the EU to cope with receiving the refugees which it thinks are disproportionately many.
Refugee flows from Africa to Malta, as well as to the Canary Islands, declined sharply in 2010, compared with the previous year. The reason was the EU’s increased coastal surveillance in the Mediterranean and Italy’s return agreement with Libya. Instead, more and more refugees entered via Greece.
Malta’s population has major obesity problems, a health statistics report for 31 European countries released by the European Commission and the OECD in early December showed. All countries participating in the study have problems with increasing obesity among the population and Malta belongs to the countries with the highest proportion of obese people. More than one in five Maltese suffer from obesity. Almost every third child is overweight or obese, according to the study.