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…
The Erasmus+ project ‘Training Kit for Empowering Refugee-Led Community Organisations’ aims at addressing the challenges faced by refugee-led organisations. It seeks to equip them with relevant information and skills. Our training kit will support them in order for them to reach a significant level of impact and influence at EU and national levels.
How? By providing training on communication strategies, administrative requirements, advocacy skills, legal information, networking, etc. The training kit will be available to the public and thoroughly disseminated throughout the Partners’ networks.
The aim of this project is to witness a dramatic improvement in the enjoyment of human rights by refugees. The project focuses on the idea of supporting the active inclusion of marginalised, vulnerable or excluded communities. We hope to support those refugees who want to play an more active role in their communities and at the EU level.
Through the project, we will firstly identify the communities’ needs, strengths and trends. We will then produce an educational package that will tackle these challenges and provide improved skills to overcome them.
We were very excited to conduct project interviews! As part of this project, we had the opportunity to interview various partners established in Malta. These included refugee-led and non-refugee led organisations.
Taking into account the background, singularities, cultures and languages of the interviewees, we had to know how to formulate questions that can resonate with each of them. We asked non-refugee-led organisations about their perceptions of refugee-led organisations, their value or what skills they might lack to have greater impact. Whereas we interviewed refugee-led organisations about their organisations, inviting them to share the different challenges they face or what skills might be beneficial for them to acquire.
As for refugee-led organisations we had the chance to set up one-on-one interviews. We interviewed Spark15, Libico and the Syrian, Ivorian, Eritrean, Somali and Sudanese Communities. Interestingly, the same points as with non-refugee-led organisations were raised. The difficulty to get involved in the organisation when the members struggle to find a reliable job was highlighted. In addition, the interviewees noted the lack of integration and the bureaucracy.
Conducting these interviews turned out to be a very instructive experience. It is interesting to see how organisations with very different backgrounds have shared similar challenges and fears, and how they try to overcome these obstacles through resilience and partnership.
We learnt how these organisations still cope in making their organisation succeed despite the continuous challenges they face.
Although each organization has its unique goals and intentions, they all agreed on one common goal: to make sure every migrant, asylum-seeker and refugee in Malta are well treated, educated and granted the rights they are entitled to.
In many ways, we have personally benefited from taking part in this project. We learnt how to conduct interviews with people from different backgrounds, with different cultures, languages and ideas. We gained significant knowledge from their input and from the various and interesting experiences that they spoke to us about and thus challenged our own impressions and ideas.
More generally, when interviewing these organisations, one can see how certain things can appear as details for some and indeed constitute a great deal of challenges for others.
It was very encouraging to see how the refugee led organisations we interviewed were built from the ground up and have achieved so much already!
I write to you on behalf of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom and 22 organisations (listed below) representing thousands of journalists and human rights activists concerning Malta’s response to the assassination of journalist Ms Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Following her murder on 16 October 2017, the Maltese authorities initiated criminal proceedings against the men who allegedly detonated the bomb that killed Ms Caruana Galizia and a parallel magisterial inquiry into whether others should be charged with criminal offences for commissioning the alleged assassins. Both the criminal proceedings and magisterial inquiry focus solely on criminal culpability.
Neither process is investigating the wider and even more serious question as to whether the Maltese state is responsible for the circumstances that led to Ms Caruana Galizia’s death.
Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires Malta – as a Member State of the Council of Europe – to comply with its protective obligation by examining (a) whether Malta knew, or ought to have known, of a real and immediate risk to Ms Caruana Galizia’s life; (b) the adequacy of any steps taken by Malta to guard against that risk; and (c) any steps that Malta needs to take to prevent future deaths of journalists and/or anti-corruption campaigners.
On 9 August 2018, a team of international lawyers from Doughty Street Chambers and Bhatt Murphy Solicitors in London issued a legal opinion finding that Malta has failed to institute any inquiry into whether the Maltese state bears any responsibility for the loss of Ms Caruana Galizia’s life. Following the legal opinion, the family has submitted the following request to your government:
To establish a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act that is completely independent of the Maltese police, Government and politicians, and that is conducted by a panel of respected international judges, retired judges and/or suitably qualified individuals with no political or government links.
We fully support the request and urge you to reconsider your position and to respond immediately and positively to the request of the family of Ms Caruana Galizia.
Protecting the lives and voices of journalists in Malta and across Europe depends upon this public inquiry. There is nothing to fear from this inquiry but the truth.
Seeking justice for Ms Caruana Galizia and protection for those who continue her legacy remains our top priority.
We would appreciate your written response to our appeal.
Flutura Kusari, Legal Advisor, The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.
List of Organisations
Blueprint for Free Speech
Committee to Protect Journalists
European Federation of Journalists
Global Editors Network
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
IFEX (the global network of over 100 freedom of expression organizations)
Index on Censorship
International Press Institute
OBC Transeuropa/ Centro per la Cooperazione Internazionale
Ossigeno per l’Informazione
Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM)
Press Emblem Campaign
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation
The Critical Institute
The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)
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.
“In summary, gathering and disseminating information, advocacy and the mobilization of public opinion are often the most common tools used by human rights defenders in their work.
They work at democratic transformation in order to increase the participation of people in the decision-making that shapes their lives and to strengthen good governance.
They also contribute to the improvement of social, political and economic conditions, the reduction of social and political tensions, the building of peace, domestically and internationally, and the nurturing of national and international awareness of human rights.”
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2004
In commemoration of International Human Rights Day, aditus foundation notes the precarious situation of Malta’s human rights defenders and calls for a broader respect for their central role in promoting and contributing towards Malta’s overall well-being.
Malta’s human rights defenders are those individuals and organisations that tirelessly seek to ensure that all persons are able to enjoy their fundamental human rights. They are active in a broad range of sectors, addressing various groups of persons and themes including: survivors of domestic violence, persons with disabilities, migrants and refugees, children, survivors of crime, the environment, LGBTIQ+ persons, inmates, women involved in prostitution, good governance and so many others.
They are present where State interventions are either absent or insufficient, where the risk of human rights violations is high.
Without human rights defenders, Malta would probably not be able to boast today’s levels of social wellbeing. As activists dedicated to ensuring human rights enjoyment for all persons, most of us push for stronger legal and policy standards, support the training of public officials, provide public information, support victims of violations and strive to hold the State accountable and responsible for its failures.
In return, many of us are bullied, harassed, insulted, threatened and stigmatised. Many of us are denied access to important dialogue with State entities, or exploited by the State as we provide those public services the State refuses or is unable to provide.
As the community of Malta’s human rights defenders is still mourning the brutal assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, we are uncertain of the security of our working environment and are concerned for the physical and psychological safety of our staff and volunteers.
We are not satisfied that our concerns are being taken seriously by the competent authorities, especially in view of the fact that we are often victims of hatred perpetuated by those entities responsible for our protection.
Understanding the importance of human rights defenders is fundamental for the fostering of a society that is geared towards respecting, protecting and fulfilling everyone’s human rights.
By tolerating this on-going abuse of its human rights defenders, Malta is not only offending the principles human rights embody – equality, non-discrimination, individual and social empowerment – but it is also further marginalising those communities and themes human rights defenders so vehemently stand up for.
On International Human Rights Day, we therefore urge Malta to rethink its relationship with human rights defenders. This means to not merely refrain from activities that instil fear and insecurity, but to take steps towards actively supporting human rights defenders.