Malta has been a popular transit country on the refugee route from Northern Africa to Europe, but total flows were smaller than those towards Greece or Italy.
According to the UNHCR, 6,095 refugees resided in Malta in 2014. In 2014, 1,275 first-time asylum applications were made, down from 2,205 in 2013 (Eurostat data). In 2014, the top three citizenships of asylum applicants were from Libya (420), Syria (305) and Somalia (130).
The government’s approach
With Italy, Malta called their European counterparts for support to share the responsibility of the refugee crisis. Malta voted in favour of accepting the quota of the EU resettlement scheme. The country also committed to adding financial funds to tackle the refugee crisis.
In mid-2015 the first integration policy was launched in Malta.
Refugees in host communities
Civil society organisations promote initiatives to raise funds, manage donations, collections of goods and work of volunteers. Local parishes agreed to host refugee families. Employers, NGOs, local municipalities and the church have held talks about how to support the refugees that need to be resettled in Malta as a part of the EU scheme.
Vigils expressing solidarity were held after the sinking of ships carrying refugees. One of the largest trade unions in Malta appealed for the integration of refugees in order to sustain the pension system.
Some of the media raised fears with claims that boats were infiltrated with radical Islamists.
Racist social media content is on the rise, with the largest increase in the EU.
In spring 2015, just over three quarters of respondents in Malta declared that immigration is one of the main issues facing the country. This was an increase of 19 percentage points since autumn 2014.
The design of the National Integration Policy in Malta was preceded by a research of attitudes towards immigrants and immigration, which showed that the majority have contact with foreigners and correctly estimate the share of immigrants in the country. Attitudes seem to depend on the groups of migrants to which they refer.