Perhaps nowhere are the consequences of the European Union’s one-size-fits-all immigration rules more apparent than here in Malta, a tiny archipelago in the Mediterranean between Libya and Italy, which now has the highest ratio of immigrants per capita of any European Union member. Many of its immigrants are caught in a limbo, unable to find jobs or afford housing — and unable to move off the island.
Until recently, Malta had little experience with boat people from the African continent. Government officials say there is no good explanation for why they began arriving here, though some link the increase to Malta’s entry into the European Union in 2004.
Malta has been asking for help for several years, and the European Union has offered some. Several hundred refugees have been relocated to the mainland, and the United States has also helped, relocating more than 1,000 families over the last five years. But the Maltese say they need more assistance.
This is one of those unusual situations in which everyone is trapped in a bad system. It appears that the vast majority of these immigrants had no intention of going to Malta. Rather, they were rescued from their flimsy boats and brought there. Once in Malta, the fact that it is an EU member means that its hands are tied with respect to what can be done with the immigrants.
Greece, too, is struggling under the rules. Thousands of immigrants keep arriving on its borders. But faced with a crushing financial crisis, it has few resources to deal with them. Its facilities are in such bad shape that last year the European Court of Human rights found that returning an asylum seeker to Greece violated his rights.
I commented on the Greek situation last month, but it is clear that the situation is not getting better.