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Title: Journalists on the frontline of migration debates
Authors: Sammut, Carmen
Keywords: Political refugees -- Malta
Immigrants -- Malta
Multiculturalism -- Malta
Journalism -- Social aspects -- Malta
Maltese newspapers
Emigration and immigration
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: European Communication Research and Education Association
Citation: Sammut, C. (2016). Journalists on the Frontline of Migration Debates. ECREA Conference, Prague. 1-6.
Abstract: Maltese journalism presents a valid case study on news representation of migration because Malta has become the southernmost gate into the European Union ever since this island state became a member in 2004. Then it became a destination for thousands of refugees that reached its shores, first from the Sub-Sahara and later from Libya and Syria. Soon after the arrival of the first few boats loaded with undocumented people, public mood quickly switched from compassion to resentment and journalists were soon caught in debates over Malta’s legal and moral obligations. Successive Maltese governments exerted pressures on EU centres of power to amend the Dublin II Agreement. According to the Maltese narrative, asylum seekers remained unnecessarily stuck on the island. As opposed to the other Mediterranean islands, Malta does not have a mainland. Local authorities often struggle to justify why irregular migrants spend months (if not years) in detention centres, until their official papers are processed and they often employ the notion of ‘carrying capacity’ and the demographic pressures experienced by an island that has one of the highest population densities in the world. After a long period when Malta received thousands of asylum seekers, in 2015 the number of those who arrived irregularly by sea diminished. This occurred when the rest of Europe saw the biggest migratory flow since World War II. There was ample media speculation about “an informal agreement” between Valletta and Rome whereby all persons rescued in Maltese waters are disembarked in Italy. However the political fluidity and conflict in Libya impacted earlier migratory routes and now most asylum seekers now arrive regularly by plane to seek international 2 protection. Most of those granted asylum in 2015 were from Libya, Syria and the sub-Sahara.
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