A look @ the (Ir)Regular Love – Right to Marry Campaign


Hey all! Hope you are ok and enjoying yourselves…despite the precautions. This week I am going to challenge myself and write on a topic that I am not to familiar with. It’s a topic I find very interesting and important. I am writing about aditus foundation’s ‘Right to Marry Campaign’.

To do so I decided to talk to our Assistant Director, Dr. Carla Camilleri.

first Off, What does this campaign consist of?

The (Ir)Regular Love – Right to Marry campaign is a 2019/2020 project that focuses on raising awareness and advocating for the right to marry for persons who are in an irregular situation in Malta. The project consisted of two strands consisting of:

  • Desk-research which resulted in the publication of the (Ir)Regular Love report.
  • Awareness raising, consisting of the production of a short information video and a campaign on social media and 3 major news portals. 

What are the Maltese laws regarding the right to marry?

In the current legal and policy framework, asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants in Malta are facing obstacles when they wish to contract marriage and found a family in Malta.

Under Maltese law, any couple wishing to marry is required to request the publication of the marriage banns to the Marriage Registry (the Registry) at least 6 weeks before the date of the intended marriage. On presenting this request, the Registry requires proof that the persons wishing to marry either have regular residence in Malta or regular residence elsewhere together with a valid visa, should a visa be required to enter Malta.

For migrants living in Malta this means that applicants should be in possession of a valid passport together with a valid Maltese residence card or a valid visa. It should be noted that the rules relating to EU nationals differ slightly and when we talk of migrants we are excluding EU nationals, although they too need to show valid identity cards, whether it is a national passport or a residence card, in order for the Registry to issue the banns.

This presents a problem for persons who are currently seeking asylum or have had their asylum application rejected but cannot return to their country of origin.

What about international laws? What do they say?

The main source of law protecting the rights relating to marriage and family life can be found in Article 8 – right to respect for private life and family life, and Article 12 – right to marry, of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

Article 12 concerns the right to form a marital relationship and a family, which is clearly distinguished from the right to respect for private and family life as protected by Article 8 and “the latter, in this context, relates to families seeking immigration authorisation on the basis of an already existing family relationship, while the former protects the rights of those who only intend to create a marital bond”

This is also echoed in Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 9 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

What is a marriage of convenience?

Although there is not one definition of what a marriage of convenience is, it is generally defined as a marriage contracted for the sole purpose of acquiring residential or other political rights.

At times, the concept of marriages of convenience may be used as a tool to enable states to maintain national sovereignty in regulating and controlling migration, specifically within the ambit of free movement rights with the European Union.

Are there any laws regarding marriages of convenience?

Under Maltese Law, marriages of convenience are defined as marriage contracted with the sole purposed of obtaining:

(a) Maltese citizenship;

(b) Freedom of movement in Malta;

(c) A work or residence permit in Malta;

(d) The right to enter Malta;

(e) The right to obtain medical care in Malta.

Any person who is found to be guilty of the offence of contracting a marriage of convenience may be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years. More importantly, the Marriage Act states that any right or benefit obtained through marriage by a person convicted of this offence may be rescinded or annulled by the public authority from which it was obtained. 

So, what is the campaign about?

It is for this reason, to prevent marriages of convenience, that the Marriage Registry requires valid documentation from persons wishing to marry in Malta. In our perspective, this is unfair. Whilst we understand and agree with Malta’s attempts to curb marriages of convenience, we think an absolute ban on marriage for certain categories of people is not justified.

There are other means available to the Registry for it to determine whether a relationship is genuine or otherwise, such as detailed interviews with both persons. This method is already used to verify whether marriages are genuine when a non-Maltese spouse married to a Maltese national applies for Maltese citizenship on the basis of such marriage.

This is the aim of our campaign. We want the Registry to approach marriage applications on a case-by-case basis, and avoid a blanket ban approach!

I’d like to thank Carla for answering my questions about this campaign. I hope you all found this interesting and useful to understand better the situation that many migrants face in Malta.

If you would like any more information do not hesitate to contact aditus foundation on our email address: info@aditus.org.mt.

Thank you all and see you next week.
They/Them He/Him.

#KeepingUpWithTheInterns is part of our project Marginalised Persons as Human Rights Volunteers. If you want to follow Matthew and Rimaz as they navigate their way through Malta’s human rights landscape, subscribe to our News & Updates or follow them on our social media pages!

This project has been funded through the Voluntary Organisations Project Scheme managed by the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector on behalf of Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sports and Voluntary Organisations within the Ministry for Education and Employment. This project/publication reflects the views only of the author, and the MEDE and the MCVS cannot be held responsible for the content or any use which may be made of the information contained therein.