Malta: A Tiny Mediterranean Nation, Awash in Immigrants With Nowhere to Go

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.

Ethiopian immigrants at a tent village in Malta, which leads the European Union in immigrants per capita. Under European rules, because the immigrants first landed on Malta, they are pretty much stuck here

On a recent evening, the immigrants living in the steel shipping containers out by the abandoned airport here began to bed down for the night, pulling their mattresses outside to escape the suffocating heat.

Some had lived at this government-run “open center” for several years. Others had arrived more recently. Most shared a sense of defeat.

“Really, it’s very bad,” said a Somali man who gave his name as Z. Mohamed. He had fled war in Somalia, was imprisoned in Libya as he made his way north and now finds himself in this grim complex, with its communal water taps and bathrooms. “You can see with your eyes how it is and every week I go to the employment center for a job, but there is nothing. They never call.”

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.


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