Refugees, immigrants from North Africa overrun Malta

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Malta has urged United Nations Member States to help the Mediterranean island country cope with an influx of refugees and other immigrants who have fled from the recent political upheaval in North Africa, especially Libya.

“We continue to call for international solidarity and burden sharing in dealing with this phenomenon,” Malta’s Prime Minister, Lawrence Gonzi, told the general debate of the General Assembly on Saturday.

“It is our hope that the European Union’s Asylum Support Office which opened in Malta last June will contribute to the task of streamlining asylum policies in the European Union and its Member States and improve cooperation between authorities.”

Noting that Malta has over the course of history earned the title of “nurse of the Mediterranean,” Mr. Gonzi pointed out that his country has in recent months provided a humanitarian hub for the evacuation of nearly 20,000 people.

At the height of the crisis in Libya, many boats laden with migrants fleeing the conflict made voyages to Malta and Italy, sometimes with tragic consequences when some of the vessels overturned at sea with heavy loss of life.