President Michael D Higgins has called for shared responsibility and additional resources in response to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

The President said that the pursuit of the "bounded, bordered self-interest of the most powerful" was putting lives at risk.

He made the comments during his three day state visit to Malta, a country which is struggling to deal with the migrant issue.

Data collated by the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, shows that over 123,000 migrants made the treacherous crossing on the Mediterranean in 2021.

Almost 2,000 people lost their lives in their attempt. So far, this year the UNHCR has recorded a further 23,720 sea arrivals in the Mediterranean region and 542 deaths.

With a population of just under half a million people Malta has struggled to absorb its share of the flow and has adopted a harder line in relation to migrants.

Amnesty International and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe has criticised the policies adopted in some countries, including Malta, in relation to the detention of "vulnerable asylum seekers."

They have also condemned the practice of intercepting migrant boats at sea and forcing them to return to their countries of origin. The European Council on Refugees has drawn attention to the Libyan Coastguard being engaged by Maltese authorities to effect so-called 'push-backs’.

President Higgins acknowledged these failings and said that policy reform should now form a crucial objective.

President Higgins with President of Malta Dr George Vella in Barrakka Gardens today

'Good practices need to be developed and shared'

"The criticism is there but I think what we need to do now is move on and change practices and build on them. Good practices need to be developed and shared. In some places they have to be vindicated where there is resistance."

The migrant situation in the Mediterranean was a key theme explored by President Higgins during his keynote speech which he delivered at the Agency for Asylum in Valetta this morning.

Addressing students from the University of Malta the President said: "We have responsibility in relation to migrant welfare. We have a collective responsibility and it's one that must be resourced".

"Why has it to be regarded as such an incredibly mad idea to suggest that meeting the basic services across the world in relation to health, housing, education should be a noble idea.

"The reason it isn’t regarded as a noble idea is because of the particular bounded bordered pursuit of self-interest by the most powerful."

President Higgins said the work being done by the European Union Agency for Asylum was of immense value as it plays an important role in increasing co-operation on asylum across EU member states, improving the implementation of the common European Asylum System, and supporting member states under pressure from large inward population