Malta accuses European Union of 'playing for time' on migration

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Malta has hit out at the European Union accusing it of “playing for time” on migration.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said he was sceptical about efforts in Brussels to tackle the issue.

Leaders of the European Union are to discuss the issue at a meeting in Brussels on Friday.

Muscat said: “My feeling is that Europe is just playing for time and the European Council this week will just say some words, hoping that the bad weather in winter will discourage the crossings and hoping that people will just forget. Until we get to next May or June, more people will start crossing, more people will die.”

Thousands cross the Mediterranean Sea every year – often passing near Malta – in search of a new life in Europe.

The issue has been bought into sharp focus by two boat disasters, including one off the island of Lampedusa, which claimed 365 lives.

Human Rights Watch estimates that 35,000 people have crossed from North Africa to Italy and Malta this year alone – many of them fleeing persecution or fighting in Somalia, Eritrea or Syria.

The group has called on the EU to chart a new policy course towards people fleeing war and dire poverty, and urged the EU to increase its sea patrols and discourage clandestine crossings by smugglers.

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