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09VALLETTA256 2009-06-08 15:36:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Valletta
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1. (C) In a June 8 meeting, Maltese Foreign Minister Tonio
Borg told Charge he was leaving later in the day to meet with
his Libyan and Italian counterparts in Rome, with "illegal
immigration" on the agenda. Borg said he was feeling
cautiously optimistic, particularly because of the sharp
reduction in immigrant arrivals that had followed Italy's
recent controversial return of 500 immigrants to Libya. In
contrast to the first three months of this year, when the
arrival of 750 immigrants (reftel) had broken all previous
records for those months, May had seen only 66 arrivals in
Malta, and there had so far been none at all in June. "If
June numbers are as low as May's," he said, "I will have to
conclude that we are entering a new phase" in efforts to deal
with the phenomenon.

2. (C) Borg said he attributed the decrease to several key
developments. First, it was likely that Libya had agreed to
take the 500 as a gesture of "thanks" to Italy for signing an
agreement according to which Italy would provide 250 million
euros worth of projects (via Italian companies) to Libya
annually for the next 20 years -- a total of 4 billion euros
-- as "compensation for the colonial past." An additional
"thank-you" from Libya, Borg opined, was action taken by
Libyan authorities in the form of "raids" against human
smugglers in the key port towns of Zuwera and Zliten, which
had reportedly stopped 200 would-be migrants from departing
Libya. Finally, these new developments had likely had a
chilling effect on the migrants themselves, who were probably
understandably reluctant to spend their life savings --
upwards of 1000 euros in many cases -- on a trip that was
likely to end in their being returned to Libya.

3. (C) Borg took some credit for the upcoming tripartite
ministerial in Rome, saying that he had initially approached
his Libyan counterpart, Musa Kusa, whom he had known for some
time, to suggest a three-way meeting. Kusa's response had
been "you arrange it and I will come." Borg promised a full
readout from the Rome meeting following his return to Malta
later this week.