About 1,100 migrants are being detained in Malta, according to figures released by the Valetta government. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has complained that the Maltese authorities detain nearly all asylum-seekers and migrants who arrive on the island. “Detention should be the exception,” said Judith Kumin, director of the UNHCR’s Brussels office. “In Malta, it is the rule.”Human rights groups have reported that hygiene, recreational facilities, access to information and medical care for detainees are poor, although they concede that the Maltese authorities have made efforts to ensure that migrants can be seen by doctors. Katrine Camilleri from the Jesuit Refugee Service in Malta said that there had been “arbitrary changes in policy”. Although the authorities had promised that detentions would not exceed 18 months, seven individuals whose bids for asylum have been rejected have been held for longer than that period, she added. But Simon Busuttil, an MEP with Malta’s ruling Nationalist Party, said the “issue of detention has to be part of the equation”. Although he criticised xenophobic comments being made in the Maltese media, he said that the large numbers of migrants were having an impact on Malta’s population.More than 1,800 migrants landed on Maltese shores during 2005, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa. This would be the equivalent of 400,000 arriving in Germany or 300,000 arriving in Italy, the Maltese authorities estimate. Malta has been arguing that EU development aid should be made partly conditional on African countries being willing to take back migrants from their countries. But the UNHCR and relief agencies have argued that it would be wrong to use development aid in this way.
Under Orbán, Hungary has seen huge corporate tax breaks, the erosion of social and health care systems, relaxed labor laws and the highest VAT in Europe. Meanwhile, a substantial part of the funds Hungary receives from the European Union find their way to the pockets of Orbán’s inner circle, sometimes even his own family.All of this comes at the expense of effective green policies, where Orbán’s record is disastrous. Since 2013, Hungary’s carbon emissions have increased, and its share of renewables has fallen substantially. The government has abolished its environmental ministry, banned wind energy and introduced a special tax on solar panels. Together with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Orbán is now building new nuclear reactors. Last year, he vetoed the European Union’s 2050 carbon neutrality goal.In her op-ed, Varga is seeking to conceal a host of anti-green policies. But voters are not fooled by the government’s rhetoric. In October, Budapest elected the first Green mayor of a Central European capital, while Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party lost control of several major urban centers.The greater European context is important here. As the EU prepares to divert substantial funds to climate action, Varga is attempting to portray the government as “green” in order to be considered a potential recipient of EU funds earmarked for climate protection.Instead of trusting an extreme-right government and its greenwashing propaganda, the EU should be channeling funds directly to those at the forefront of the effort to fight climate change: cities. Also On POLITICO Opinion Time for a Christian conservative Green policy By Judit Varga Dávid DoroszDeputy mayor of Budapest for climate and developmentBudapest, HungaryIn her op-ed, “Time for a Christian conservative Green policy” (January 27), Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga is attempting to portray a right-wing government with a disastrous environmental record as a climate champion. This type of conservative greenwashing poses a real threat to successful climate action.Much like other right-wing populists, including U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán routinely puts corporate interests ahead of climate action.