|Name in English||Number of staff||Ministry responsible||Is there any political interference possible by the responsible Minister with the decision making in individual cases by the determining authority?|
|International Protection Agency (IPA)||28||Ministry for Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement||Yes|
Malta amended its Refugees Act in August 2020, transforming the Office of the Refugee Commissioner (RefCom) into the International Protection Agency (IPA) without changing its mandate. The IPA is the authority responsible for examining and determining applications for international protection at first instance. The IPA is a specialised authority in the field of asylum. However, it falls under the Ministry also responsible for Police, Immigration, Asylum, Correctional Services and National Security. As of the end of 2020, the Office of the Refugee Commissioner, now the International Protection Agency employed 28 staff, among them 19 are case workers. Out of these 19 case workers, 5 are in charge of drafting decisions on asylum applications.
In 2019, due to a large increase in sea arrivals, the Maltese authorities requested EASO support in several areas, including the registration and lodging of applications, the interview and assessment of applications and support to increase the capacity and efficiency of the Dublin Unit. An operational and technical assistance plan was therefore signed on 24 June 2019.
Given the continued increase in sea arrivals, a new plan for 2020 was signed between Malta and EASO in December 2019. This plan foresaw that EASO would strengthen and increase the support already provided but also add additional support in the field of reception. This new plan did not only foresee support for the screening and referral of vulnerable cases, but also support to establish a Country of Origin Information unit and to enhance a quality control mechanism through the deployment of quality control officers and research officers. Moreover, in 2020, EASO gradually increased support for the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS) in the management of reception capacity/facilities, vulnerability screening and referral and age assessment. This is done by deploying social worker experts, vulnerability officers and other experts.
In 2020, EASO deployed 85 different experts in Malta across asylum and reception-related activities. The majority of them were caseworkers (23), flow managers, field support officers (16), registration support staff (14), vulnerability assessors (14), and other support staff (e.g. administrative staff, operations staff, Dublin staff). As of 14 December 2020, there were a total of 53 EASO experts in Malta, mainly caseworkers (11), vulnerability assessors (11), and registration support staff (6).
On 11 December 2020, a new operation plan was signed with Malta for the year 2021. It foresees to strengthen the support already provided and identifies two priority needs to be addressed: firstly, improve the access to the asylum procedure and increase capacity to manage the asylum backlog at first instance determination; secondly, enhance the capacity of the Maltese authorities to implement reception standards in line with the CEAS.
In order to achieve the first objective to improve access to the asylum procedure and manage the backlog at first instance, EASO will continue to support the IPA and AWAS with information provision, screening of vulnerable cases, document analysis, registration, interview, drafting of evaluation reports but also the Agency will help with the creation of a Quality Control Unit and a COI Unit. EASO will also offer support in terms of interpretation and training. These objectives will be achieved with the deployment of 10 registration personnel and 2 Member States experts, 10 clerical personnel, 2 flow management support officers, 1 document analysis expert, 15 case workers, 3 team leaders, up to 5 Member States experts to complement the case workers and team leaders, 2 Dublin assistants, 2 quality assurance support officers, and 2 COI researchers.
In order to meet the second priority for reception, the Plan foresees to support AWAS in creating an information provision package, delivering information provision sessions. EASO will also support the national referral mechanism, the identification of vulnerable cases and the age assessment procedure. The Agency will also develop guidelines, guidance, SOPs, and any other necessary tool. Training and interpretation are also included in the Plan. In order to achieve these objectives, EASO will deploy a number of staff, including 5 information providers, 2 quality assurance support officers, 5 information providers, 2 quality assurance support officers and 20 vulnerability assessment officers, 1 or 2 vulnerability focal points, 6 Care Team officers, up to 9 social workers and up to 3 Member States experts on vulnerability assessment, 1 flow management support officer as well as interpreters.
 Article 4 International Protection Act.
 Information provided by EASO, 26 February 2021.