Malta Refugee Council statement on World Refugee Day 2023
Every year, World Refugee Day invites us to remember the men, women and children who were forced to flee their homes in search of safety. This year, to mark Malta’s forthcoming launch of its second National Integration Policy and Action Plan, the Malta Refugee Council wishes to urge Malta to develop a clear and inclusive pathway towards refugees being accepted and welcome.
Refugees who have settled here need better guidance on what it takes for them to be truly welcome in Malta. From the moment of their arrival, they are repeatedly told that Malta can never be their home. This harsh message follows them along their paths, where they are constantly subjects of criticism, discrimination and exclusion. After years of life in Malta and despite their best efforts, they remain on-lookers of Malta’s social and cultural life, burdened with the knowledge that Malta will never really be home.
At the end of August, Loujin, a four-year old Syrian girl, boarded a wooden fishing vessel on Lebanon’s coast with her mother and one year old sister, Mira, and set out across the sea with over sixty other people from Syria, Palestine and Lebanon. Running out of basic provisions and taking on water, they began sending out distress signals on 2 September, 2022. Those distress signals were immediately relayed to the Maltese authorities.
For days, the Maltese Authorities ignored the distress signals. They also ignored NGO calls for help. For days Loujin, her family, and their fellow travelers drifted in the eastern part of Malta’s search and rescue region (SAR). Commercial vessels passed within eyesight multiple times. The Maltese Authorities shamefully instructed none of them to intervene.
Malta Refugee Council Statement on World Refugee Day 2022
Malta in 2022 offers an extremely hostile environment to refugees reaching our shores. The Government refuses to explain why they are abandoned out at sea, either not rescued or not allowed to safely disembark. Hundreds are detained in squalid conditions and on dubious legal grounds in what international human rights bodies described as “institutional mass neglect”. New detention rules dramatically limit their possibility of receiving needed information and support. Measures adopted by the Government in eagerness to speed up an under-resourced asylum procedure limit the opportunity for persons to fully explain why they are in need of protection, whilst the care provided to the most vulnerable is – at most – basic. Dialogue between the Government and civil society, including refugee-led groups, has been effectively closed.
Never before has refugee protection been so challenging.
On World Refugee Day 2022 the Malta Refugee Council appeals to Malta to be place of shelter for those men, women and children forced to flee their homes. Whether fleeing the war in Ukraine, discriminatory laws in Nigeria or ethnic conflict in South Sudan, all refugees share the same need for safety, protection and dignity.
This year, 2021, we are honoured to be celebrating our tenth birthday! On 31 March 2011 the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations confirmed our application and registered us as a human rights NGO with a mission to “monitor, report and act on access to human rights in Malta.” Our vision, then, was to establish a professional organisation that would target Malta’s human rights framework. We wanted to closely scrutinise those structures mandated to respect, protect and fulfil the fundamental human rights of all persons living in Malta: legislation, policies, institutions…