At the very core of the development and harmonization of EU migration and asylum policies resides theconstruction of the Schengen space of free movement of people. To the dismantling of EU internal borderscorresponds the construction of a European external boundary progressively broadening with the enlarging of theEU. In this frame Malta, as a recently accessed EU member state, turned out to be part of this widening Europeanexternal boundary. As one of the most visible and locally sensitive consequences, since 2004 the island-statebecame the destiny of thousands of boat-migrants coming from the coasts of north-Africa. Following EU directivesand policies the national response to such unexpected phenomena has been articulated mainly through theopening of numerous detention centres and the creation of diverse legal statuses for migrants. As a direct effectof such implementation and interpretation of EU migration and asylum policies quot; in particular the DublinRegulation - a quickly growing population of migrants and refugees get stuck in the small island for years facingvery difficult life conditions, generating tensions with the local population and becoming the main locally debatedpolitical issue. Thus, as a result of a three months field study carried out in Malta in 2009, this article describeshow EU migration and asylum policy have been locally implemented since the 2004 European accession of thecountry, underlining some of main related dynamics and impacts characterising the newly established Europeanexternal border.
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