The main commitment of the agreement (paragraph 1) is to „establish a more predictable and effective temporary solidarity mechanism to ensure the dignified landing of migrants embarked on the high seas by ships in a safe place“. Therefore, the agreement does not apply to migrants who manage to reach European shores on their own, who are by far the vast majority of migrants. For example, according to the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), in the first six months of 2019, only 8% of migrants arriving in Italy were rescued by rescue boats. The redistribution process is not just for people who already have refugee status. If those rescued are not eligible for international protection (about 80% of all those rescued), they are subject to an „effective and rapid return“. However, if asylum is refused, returns are managed by the destination country and not by the country of arrival, which implies a redistribution of return costs, which is a significant aspect. The mechanism, which is explicitly defined as a „pilot project,“ is „valid for a period of at least six months and may be extended,“ although it may be terminated „in case of abuse by third parties,“ a term without further explanation. The agreement therefore has a temporary validity. Nevertheless, the „Malta Agreement“ is now in force. According to the Italian Ministry of the Interior, for the relocation of migrants arriving on Italian shores, the number of people redistributed to Europe between September 2019 (after the signing of the agreement) and the end of January 2020 amounts to 464.
The average is 116 migrants redistributed per month, compared to an average of 11 per month for the first eight months of 2019. At the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 8 October, many European countries did not accede to the agreement and said they were not prepared to take in rescued migrants. The countries of Northern and Eastern Europe, in particular, have reaffirmed their strong opposition to any plan requiring the reception of migrants. Bulgaria, Cyprus and Greece complained that the four countries that met in Malta only deal with the problem of migrants rescued in the central Mediterranean and landing in Italy and Malta, not those who arrived in Europe via other Mediterranean routes (. B for example the eastern Mediterranean). Only a few Member States have expressed support for the four-lane plan, including Ireland and Portugal. In summary, „a rapid rail relocation system must be implemented on the basis of pre-declared commitments prior to disembarkation.“ If necessary, the repatriation of migrants to their country is set „immediately after disembarkation“ by the agreement. The four States want to stress that this new mechanism, „which at the same time addresses the need to protect human life and to help anyone in need“, will not open irregular routes to European shores and will avoid the creation of new factors of attraction.