One of the biggest changes in the migratory dynamic over the course of 2018 was an increase in the arrival of migrant boats to Malta, with these having stopped completely since 2015 and 2016, the representative in Malta for the United Nations Refugee Agency Kahin Ismail said in an interview with The Malta Independent.

Ismail said that this influx in boat arrivals is probably the biggest change seen this year, and noted the MV Lifeline case from last summer along with cases involving other NGO boats and recent rescues carried out by the Armed Forces of Malta as examples of this influx.

Over the holiday period the AFM rescued 249 migrants in distress, whilst a further 49 migrants remain, at the time of writing, stranded outside Maltese shores onboard two NGO vessels: the Sea-Watch 3 operated by Sea-Watch and the Professor Albrecht Penck operated by Sea-Eye.

Fabrizio Ellul, also from UNHCR, explains that this is in fact something of an abnormal influx of migrants considering the period of the year, but one has to consider things in a wider perspective before drawing conclusions over whether it could be indicative of an influx which could be reflected over the course of the upcoming year.  However, Ellul said, one must always be prepared for any eventuality as while it’s difficult to predict increases or decreases, the likelihood is that such boat arrivals would continue.