Put people first – Joint NGO Statement on the occasion of World Refugee Day 2018

On World Refugee Day 2018, in the run-up to the European Council Meeting on June 28, we urge the government to prioritise the protection of people rather than just the protection of Europe’s borders.

The events of the past weeks are a stark reminder, if any were needed, that Europe’s borders are still dangerous and inhospitable places for people in need of protection. They highlight the fact that the most vulnerable are often the first casualty in disputes between states on responsibility for those rescued at sea.  Seen in the light of discussions at European level, they underscore the fact that Europe is still far from achieving a unified and consistent response to the needs of people arriving here in search of protection.

Instead of focusing on real responsibility-sharing within the European Union, Member States’ discussions focus almost exclusively on stopping spontaneous refugee arrivals or making arrangements with non-European States for refugees to remain there, even where these States might not be able or willing to offer true refugee protection.

This lack of a unified approach and the emphasis on protection of borders and perceived national interests – rather than protection of people – is problematic for everyone. Individual EU Member States are disadvantaged by the application of the Dublin Regulation, insofar as this requires the EU’s border Member States to become the continent’s reception or detention centres.

Yet is it particularly problematic for refugees and asylum-seekers who continue to die in ever greater numbers as they attempt to reach a place of safety.

According to UNHCR, although sea arrivals to Italy have drastically reduced since July 2017, the journey claims an increasing number of lives. In 2018, the death rate amongst those crossing from Libya increased to 1 for every 14 people, compared to 1 for every 29 people in the same period in 2017.

‘Forgotten at the Gates of Europe’, a report published yesterday by JRS Europe, highlights the impact of this reality on the lives of men, women and children fleeing in search of protection. It calls upon the EU to create a Common European Asylum System that lives up to its name and that truly affords protection to those who need it.

On World Refugee Day, aditus foundation, Integra Foundation, JRS Malta and the Malta Emigrants’ Commission join our voice to that of JRS Europe in calling for a fundamental policy shift at EU level – to create a system that prioritises protection of people and creates safe and legal pathways for people seeking protection.

We encourage Malta to lead by example, as it did with the intra-EU relocation exercise, and to introduce safe and legal pathways for refugees to reach a place of safety, in particular by broadening the rules on family reunification for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and resettling refugees from transit countries.


Living together: refugee integration is so much more than refugee survival

Over recent years Malta has become home to men, women and children who, having fled their homes, found shelter here. Living together we have become friends, neighbours and partners. We share day-to-day experiences including grocery shopping, studying, religious celebrations, work and so many more.

By offering them safety and security, Malta has committed to guaranteeing their well-being. By settling here, they have committed to integrating into Maltese society.

Today, to commemorate World Refugee Day 2017, we jointly urge Malta to ensure that its protection of refugees also includes their integration. A truly unified nation is one that succeeds in bringing together all the members of its various communities. By doing so, Malta will benefit from new synergies and social cohesion, where all may be encouraged to play more active and meaningful roles in their local communities, and vulnerable persons would be supported and empowered.

We appreciate the challenges this presents to all persons and entities involved. On the one hand, refugee integration requires Malta to be more understanding and respectful of new ways of life, and to design programmes that ensure specific needs are met and human dignity guaranteed. On the other hand, refugees must cope with the social, cultural, and legal demands of wholly new environments whilst simultaneously dealing with the loss of their loved ones and of their homes.

Our experience, and that of many other nations, shows us that a divisive approach based on exclusion, hatred and prejudice only fosters inequality, poverty and instability. A long-term integration vision that is based on respect for fundamental human rights, the protection of vulnerable persons and inclusive dialogue is the only way to ensure a viable and sustainable future for refugees and all members of Maltese society.

We therefore urge the government to continue its work on formulating a national integration strategy.

In particular, we think it is essential that the strategy goes beyond mere survival but instead explores permanent solutions that lead to true belonging: long-term residence, family reunification, citizenship.

We reiterate our willingness to be involved in discussing this strategy, including through consultations with refugees, to ensure its effectiveness and impact.

We also invite everyone to work towards a united Malta that includes those men, women and children who left everything behind and are making Malta home.


This statement is made jointly by the following organisations:

 aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Eritrean Community, Ethiopian Community, Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Integra Foundation, International Association for Refugees, JRS Malta, KOPIN, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Malta Microfinance, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, Migrant Women Association Malta, Migrants’ Network for Equality, People for Change Foundation, Solidarity with Migrants Network, Somali Community in Malta, SOS Malta, Spark15, Sudanese Community.


“Journeys of Hope: We urge Malta to grant safe and legal access to refugees”

Press Statement on World Refugee Day 2016

On World Refugee Day 2016 Jesuit Refugee Service Malta, aditus foundation, Integra Foundation and the Malta Emigrants’ Commission underline the need to allow refugees safe and legal access to protection.

To highlight the urgency of this call, JRS Europe yesterday launched ‘Journeys of Hope’, a collection of personal encounters with men, women and children as they hope, yet struggle, to reach European safety. Gathering stories from Greece, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Italy, Austria and Germany, ‘Journeys of Hope’ is a stark reminder of the difficulties refugees face as they are repeatedly denied access to their most basic fundamental human rights.

Importantly, it talks about the dangerous journeys they must take in order to survive.

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Fatumo has been living in Malta for six years. Malta believes she does not qualify for refugee status, yet has granted her subsidiary protection on the basis of the conflict that has been tearing Somalia apart for the past 20 years.

Her three children are living with her sister in Kenya, but life in the refugee camp is extremely tough and their futures uncertain. Fatumo doubts she’ll ever see her children again.

Subsidiary protection, like refugee status, acknowledges that it is impossible for beneficiaries to return back to their homes. It is renewed every three years for as long as is necessary. Many subsidiary protection beneficiaries have been living in Malta for several years.

Unlike many EU Member States, Malta does not permit beneficiaries of subsidiary protection to be reunited with their families. This right is only granted to refugees, denying all others a future with their close and loves ones. Many of these persons have made Malta their homes, having arrived here several years ago.

Nonetheless, their daily lives are consumed by their anxiety about the safety of their spouses and children.

Mohamed chose not to risk his life by getting on the little boats leaving Libya. Instead, and because he had the means to, he obtained a false Libyan passport and used it to fly to Malta. Upon arrival he was arrested, and subsequently faced criminal charges in Court. He was found guilty and sentenced to six months imprisonment.

A young Libyan man, Mohamed felt he had to flee Libya in order to survive.

Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention prohibits States from penalizing refugees who irregularly enter their territory. The Article understands the difficulty faced by most refugees in obtaining legal access to a State that could offer them the protection they need.

We welcomed Malta’s recent review of its detention policy insofar as it embraced this understanding within the administrative context.

Yet we underline the inconsistency of this review with legislation that imprisons the same refugees who would be exempt from detention had they risked their lives to enter Malta.

Providing safe and legal ways to reach a place of safety is the most effective way to prevent refugees from resorting to unsafe and irregular means of travel to access Europe, thereby saving lives. We feel there is much Malta can do to advocate for such means at EU level, including urging a more meaningful resettlement commitment and encouraging a broader and more proactive use of humanitarian visas.

Yet we also feel Malta may make significant contributions towards preventing additional dangerous and illegal journeys, specifically:

  1. Agree to reunite at least 500 spouses and children with their family members (beneficiaries of subsidiary protection) already living in Malta within the next 12 months; and
  2. Provide refugees an exemption from prosecution for using false documents to travel to Malta.

JRS Malta, aditus foundation, Integra Foundation and the Malta Emigrants’ Commission are eager to explore possibilities of cooperating with Government in the implementation of these measures.

We are confident that our joint efforts could facilitate the process in a spirit of cooperation and mutual understanding.

For further information:

 JRS Malta – Katrine Camilleri (79858099)

aditus foundation – Neil Falzon (99892191)

Integra Foundation – Maria Pisani (79618367)

Malta Emigrants’ Commission – Mgr. Alfred Vella (99440025)

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World Refugee Day 2016

fuocoammare

As refugees continue to attempt the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean Sea, a discussion on the reasons and consequences of these voyages remains a relevant one.

World Refugee Day 2016 is addressing this discussion by bringing together the Valletta Film Festival, aditus foundation, the Italian Cultural Institute and UNHCR Malta to organize two events on the themes presented in the award-winning film ‘Fuocoammare’.

The film will be screened as part of the Valletta Film Festival (8 June). You’re also invited to a participate in a conversation on the theme of refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea (7 June), with special guest Dr. Pietro Bartolo, the protagonist of ‘Fuocoammare’.

Check out the events at the World Refugee Day 2016 page.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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‘Unprotected Families’ Joint Statement for World Refugee Day 2015

As refugees flee their homes, escaping persecution or war, they are often forced to leave behind their husbands, wives, children, parents or loved ones. Along the route, searching for safety, refugee families face severe difficulties in ensuring shelter and basic livelihood, particularly for young children and other vulnerable persons.

Very often, families are torn apart following flight, dispersed in refugee camps, cities or other transit points. Some persons are simply unable to continue the escape, succumbing to armed groups, illness, lack of nutrition, severe climatic conditions. Family members reuniting with their loved ones in a country offering refuge struggle to be recognized as persons also requiring protection and safety.

Today, in commemoration of World Refugee Day, we recall the impact of the refugee plight on those family members left behind, those dispersed along the way and those eventually reuniting in safety. In this regard we acknowledge that family is the cornerstone of society, a value that is highly cherished and protected in Malta. We therefore express our solidarity with all those refugees whose family experiences are reduced to hurried calls, who are lamenting the loss of their loved ones, or who are striving to start a new life with their families, also here in Malta.

The protection of refugees should mean protection also of their family members, especially for those who remain living in peril. We therefore invite Malta to explore the possibility of extending family reunification to beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, thereby discouraging family members to avoid resorting to dangerous and illegal routes to joining their loves ones. We also strongly urge Malta to consider the situation of family members reuniting in this country, by securing their legal status and documentation that guarantee real protection.

The world we live in today has more people displaced by conflict than at any time since the Second World War. World Refugee Day is an opportunity to highlight the impact of war on families and place individual refugee family stories at the centre of our attention.

This year we have teamed up with Valletta Film Festival and the Film Grain Foundation to commemorate World Refugee Day in Malta also through the medium of film. The powerful documentary ‘Born in Gaza’ will screen in Valletta on 20, 21 and 23 June (St James Cavalier and the Embassy Complex).

Filmgrain Foundation: “We are honored to have teamed up with UNHCR and the local human rights NGOs to commemorate World Refugee Day. Film Grain Foundation strongly believes in the power of Cinema to raise awareness about the world’s many realities. Hernan Zin’s film Born in Gaza is gripping and necessary reminder of one of the main causes for forced migration: War, told by the uncorrupted voices of Palestinian children.”

Statement by:
aditus foundation, Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Integration Foundation, JRS Malta, KOPIN, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, People for Change Foundation, UNHCR Malta.