Vatican City ( Associated Press) — Pope Francis left for Malta this weekend, with refugee exodus from Ukraine set a haunting backdrop to European migration drama that has over the years plagued Malta and other Mediterranean countries and the plight of desperate people who have arrived on boats. is focused on. seek refuge.
Francis’ two-day visit to the Mediterranean island nation had always been expected to focus on migration, given Malta’s front line in Europe’s refugee debate, and to show solidarity for nations fleeing war, famine and poverty. Francis’s frequent calls for.
But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the forced exodus of 4 million people – half of them children – have added a new impetus to Francis’ visit, originally scheduled for May 2020 but postponed because of the pandemic. was given.
Some in Malta see a double standard at play in the war in Ukraine in the context of European refugee norms and the willingness of European countries to share the burden of accepting new ones.
The 2003 Dublin Regulation stipulates that EU countries where refugees will be the first must generally process asylum claims. This places a heavy burden on front-line countries such as Malta, Italy and Greece to host migrants while the process goes on.
That rule is set aside in Ukraine’s exodus, with the European Union adopting a “Temporary Security Directive” for the first time, allowing Ukrainians to settle anywhere in the 27-nation bloc. Most have stayed in neighboring Poland, but many have traveled further to find family members across Europe.
“The Dublin Rule has been overlooked, and rightly so because there is an unprecedented situation that requires flexibility,” said Malta Archbishop Charles Scicluna. “We would like to see that kind of flexibility when it comes to situations of emergency in the Mediterranean.”
In a telephone interview, Scicluna stated that he hoped Francis would take up the issue of migration, at least because of the welcome Malta showed the Apostle Paul when he was shipwrecked on his way from Malta to Rome around AD 60. Was. According to the biblical account, the Maltese people showed Paul an “unusual kindness” – the kind of welcome Francis said he hoped would be extended to all immigrants.
Francis is to meet a group of migrants staying at a shelter on Sunday at the end of his trip.
Malta has often come under fire by rescue groups for denying entry to migrants arriving from Libya. It argues that the EU has one of the highest rates of processing asylum applications for the first time relative to the population, and often urges other European countries to take them.
Last year, some 832 migrants arrived by sea, down 63% from the previous year; According to EU and UN figures, there are currently around 4,000 asylum applications pending in Malta.
This week, a German aid group urged Malta to take in 106 migrants rescued from Libya; There was no immediate indication whether Malta would provide port access to Sea-I4.
In February, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic, insisted that Malta should not release migrants at sea while negotiating their ultimate fate, saying it risked lives and that it was necessary to protect them. Violates Malta’s obligations.
In the same report, Mijatovic also called for Malta to bring justice to the killers of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who died on October 16, 2017 after a powerful car bomb exploded while he was driving near his home. Was being She was probing links between leaked Panama Papers documents and financial transactions pointed out by prominent political and business figures on the small EU nation.
The killing of Caruana Galizia sparked international outrage and prompted the European Parliament to send a fact-finding mission to Malta. A public inquiry found the Maltese state to “take responsibility” for the killing because of a culture of impunity emanating from the highest levels of government.
Francis may well make reference to the assassination, as he has been jailed for a long time over corruption in politics, including his frequent foreign trips.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni would not exclude that Francis would mention the murder or even visit relatives of Caruana Galizia. “It is entirely possible that subjects will encounter words or encounters in a variety of ways,” Bruni said. Francis often holds private audiences during his foreign visits, which are confirmed only after he has.
Maltese authorities have identified several suspects in the murder, and the trial is ongoing.
Nadia Delicata, in charge of evangelization efforts at the Maltese Church, said the murders bare divisions in Maltese society, with the journalist almost “canonizing” in some Catholic country – a small vigil held on the 16th of every month. His memory – and others are saying that such a polarizing person should have seen it coming.
Delicata said the church, which spoke out strongly against the killing, may have inadvertently helped bridge the gap by becoming a more visible presence during the pandemic, with daily televised Masses insured in Maltese homes.
“It really helped heal this big divide that involves the division around Daphne’s memory,” she told reporters.
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