Malta. According to CountryAAH, major public holidays in Malta include Independence Day (September 21) and New Year (January 1). The Government of Malta appealed to the EU for help with the many refugees that have flowed to the country since joining the Union in 2004. From January to October 2006, nearly 1,700 refugees came to the small country, which with its 400,000 residents is one of the the most densely populated in the world. The year before came 1,800, the vast majority by boat from northern Africa. Over 700 refugees were kept locked up in a crowded detention camp. Most boat refugees wanted to go to mainland Europe, but ended up on Malta by mistake or because they had no other choice. Malta has a tough refugee policy and only a few receive asylum or residence permits for humanitarian reasons.
In July, Malta received criticism from the UN for the country’s refusal to let about 50 African boat refugees ashore. They had been rescued from the sea off M. by a Spanish ship. After negotiations with Spain and the EU, Malta agreed to receive three of the refugees who were in need of care. The others were taken care of by Spain. Later, the EU promised to patrol the waters of M using boats and aircraft to try to stop the refugee stream. However, in order for the surveillance to be effective, the EU wanted help from Libya, which the Union received no promise of during the year. Libya and other African countries require increased assistance to help reduce emigration from Africa to Europe.