Malta is experiencing a record number of migrant arrivals in 2020, as 883 people have already arrived in the first two months of the year. That figure is around 16 times higher than the number of arrivals in the same period in 2019.
In the first two months of the year, a total of 883 migrants have already arrived in Malta by boat from Libya, according to UNHCR. This figure is around 16 times higher than in the same period in 2019. Or, in other words, the number for the first two months in 2020 represents 25% of all 2019 arrivals.
The year 2019 was already a record year, with a total of 3,406 people who disembarked at the port of Valletta. However, only 49 arrived in January and February.
Mild weather in first two months of 2020
"Departures from Libya tend to fluctuate from month to month, and depend on various factors, including weather, sea conditions, but also the volatile security situation in Libya," said a UNHCR spokesperson as reported by English-language Maltese website LovinMalta.com.
The first two months of 2020 were particularly mild for the Maltese islands. But among the reasons for the exponential rise in disembarkations, Maltese media also cited the end of a secret pact between Malta and Libya in which the Libyan Coast Guard would bring migrants rescued at sea back to Libya, even if they were rescued in the Maltese SAR zone.
Bishop sends 'unified cry' to EU for migrant reception
On February 21 during the meeting of Mediterranean bishops in Bari, Monsignor Charles Jude Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta and President of the Maltese Bishops' Conference, repeated the need for improved reception in the country and in the European Union.
"We need to transform xenophobia into xenophilia, an ancient value from the Mediterranean that we need. Reception requires broad solidarity. The topic of migrants involves Malta and other countries such as Italy, Greece, and Spain. We are sending a unified cry for solidarity to all of Europe," he said on the sidelines of the third day of the meeting in Bari.
Responding to a question from journalists on the visit by Pope Francis to Malta scheduled for the end of May, Msgr Scicluna said that "Malta cannot avoid the fact that it on the periphery in this discourse on reception. The pope is coming not only to recognize an ancient and welcoming Christian community, but also to invite us to continue with this tradition of welcoming," he said.