152 asylum seekers depart for Germany

A group of 152 people who first fled strife in their home countries and subsequently a revolution in Libya left Malta yesterday to start a new life in Germany.

The 152 hail from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan, and make up 51 families including 36 children and 14 single persons. Those who talked to members of the press before their departure to Munich said they were thankful for the assistance received in Malta, and were clearly looking forward to settling in a safe country after their past experiences.

They had fled Libya in February and March, when the Libyan revolution started. As asylum seekers, they faced detention for up to a year under Maltese policy, but their stay in a detention centre turned out to be much shorter, particularly since most formed part of families.

All were granted international protection after their asylum claims were processed, making them eligible for resettlement elsewhere. Germany had committed itself to relocate persons granted international protection earlier this year, and the lengthy process preparing the group for their resettlement in a new country began weeks ago.

The process was overseen by the International Organization for Migration, entities within the Home Affairs Ministry’s Third-Country Nationals Unit – including the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers and the Office for the Refugee Commissioner – and their counterparts in Germany. The IOM took responsibility for counselling potential beneficiaries of resettlement, holding cultural orientation courses and taking care of the necessary logistical preparations.

In the coming months, the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees will be assisting them to integrate in Germany.

A total of 133 beneficiaries of international protection have already been resettled from Malta to Germany in four departures in the past five years, with the latter two occurring within the framework of an EU pilot project for the resettlement of refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection.

Twelve EU members, as well as Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, had pledged to resettle a total of 323 people from Malta at a conference convened by Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström last May, with Germany accounting for the largest number of pledged placements.

Speaking at the airport, Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici said that Germany’s assistance was a sign that Malta was not being abandoned by other EU members, but was being shown solidarity. He added that the assistance gave the group of future, and stressed that the people were grateful for the assistance received here.

The minister asserted that Germany’s assistance showed that integration can happen. He noted that this would a lengthy process involving learning a new language and changing one’s mentality, and that the group could expect a culture shock as it adapted to life in a democratic European country.

Dr Mifsud Bonnici also said that he hoped the resettlement of another 100 people could take place by the end of the year.

IOM chief of mission for Italy and Malta, José Angel Oropeza, bid the group farewell, urging them to “be good citizens” after noting that Malta had sheltered them and Germany had given them a new home.

Ali El-Ehmer

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