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Message of Hope on World Refugee Day 2006
By Giselle Borg Olivier
Jun 20, 2006, 09:58 CET

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June 20 sees the celebrations of World Refugee Day worldwide. The focus this year is on the hope that accompanies refugees throughout their journey to asylum. Malta plays a significant role in the journey of an asylum seeker due to its geographical position between Northern Africa, where most refugees leave from, and mainland Europe, which is their proposed destination. A number of NGOs have set up Information Stands outside the Law Courts from 0800 CET till 1400 CET to honour the hope that accompanies refugees along their desperate journey towards a safe haven.

In honour of this day, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, said hope is what makes refugees and those who help them fight to survive and refuse to give up the struggle to start rebuilding their lives.

Over the past 55 years, UNHCR and its partners have helped more than 50 million uprooted people to re-start their lives and that work continues in more than 100 countries; however, more than 5 million refugees have been in exile for five years or longer, some of them for decades.

Antonio Guterres said, “All of us can do our part to give hope to the uprooted - from a simple, welcoming smile to refugees in our own communities, to the participation of individuals, businesses and governments in supporting the field activities of the many humanitarian agencies caring for the displaced”.

EU Vice President Frattini's statement for World Refugee Day was that Europe's history owes much to people moving to escape persecution and find safety. Out of these movements has grown an especially European humanitarian tradition of tolerance, welcome and providing shelter and refuge to those who need it. World Refugee Day 2006 gives people the opportunity to reflect on the part refugees and their journeys have played in shaping the present and as a reminder of the many in Europe who faced similar journeys in the not too distant past.

Looking at the irregular immigrant situation in Malta, data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) shows that in 2005, 48 boats brought a total of 1,882 irregular immigrants to Malta, which is an increase of 434 people, when compared to the previous years. Up until June 14 of this year, nine boats reached Malta’s shores bringing with them 378 irregular immigrants.

The increase in arrivals is also reflected in an increase in the number of applications for asylum. The total number of applications received by the Office of the Refugee Commissioner during 2004 amounted to 997, whilst the number received in 2005 was 1,199. This difference translates into an increase of 20 per cent over the figure for 2004. Meanwhile, the number of applications recorded this year up to the end of May amounted to 557.

NSO records also show that an increase was also recorded in the number of migrants who were repatriated – from 709 in 2004 to 954 in 2005. Up to April 2006 the number of repatriations for this year stood at 349.

The total number of asylum decisions taken by the Office of the Refugee Commissioner during 2005 was 1,102. Of these 49.6 per cent granted refugee status or humanitarian protection whilst the remaining 50.5 per cent of all decisions were rejections. In contrast to the figures recorded for 2003 and 2004, the distribution of decisions taken in 2005 indicates that the percentage of rejections exceeded the percentage of grants of humanitarian protection. Between 2002 and 2005 a total of 160 persons were granted refugee status, 1,509 persons were granted humanitarian protection and 1,288 persons’ applications were rejected.

Frattini stated that over the last six years the EU has put in place laws which have improved the overall situation in the EU for asylum seekers and refugees by ensuring there are minimum levels of support, procedural guarantees and that Member States take a consistent approach to who should be granted refugee status.

He declared that by 2010 there should be a Common European Asylum System where all asylum seekers will be treated in the same way, with the same guarantees and procedures, wherever in the EU they make their asylum claim. In turn, a debate on the future of EU Asylum Policy will be launched next year.

See also:

More illegal immigrants reach Malta

By MaltaMedia News - Jun 17, 2006

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