‘The right to live in dignity is a basic human right for all’ – NGO press statement on International Human Rights Day

We are shocked and saddened by the news of the death of Haji, the Somali man who died last Thursday under the bridge in Marsa. The grim discovery of his dead body, under the bridge that he had made his home, brought to light the disturbing but all too often hidden reality of poverty and homelessness among migrants in Malta.

Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding Haji’s death are not unique – our work is a daily encounter with people who cannot meet their basic needs. People for whom finding food and, at times, shelter is a constant struggle.

Their problems are often exacerbated by mental illness or alcohol dependence, which not only make people more vulnerable to poverty and homelessness in the first place, but also make it virtually impossible for them to break out of the destructive cycle of poverty without extensive support.

Although it would be facile to place all of the blame at the door of the state, it is clear that there is much more that can be done to ensure that migrants are able to live with dignity and effectively enjoy their rights.

Migrants, even those such as Haji who were granted protection, are provided with very limited support to rebuild their lives in Malta. Often they must turn to NGOs for help to learn the language, further their education, or to find a job or housing. Those struggling with mental illness or alcohol dependence, who need intensive services and support, are often unable to find it. This, coupled with difficulties finding work that is not precarious, seasonal or under-paid, and soaring rent prices, makes it increasingly difficult for migrants to live with dignity.

Over and above, policies that are apparently legitimate, often act as a barrier to the enjoyment of rights, leaving people trapped in poverty and destitution.

The right to live in dignity is a basic human right.

Today, as the world marks International Human Rights Day, we urge Government to address the issue of poverty even among the migrant population and to take steps to ensure that individuals living in destitution receive the support that they need to live with dignity.

Statement made by: aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Integra Foundation, International Association for Refugees, JRS Malta, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrant Women Association Malta, Migrants’ Network for Equality, People for Change Foundation, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta, SOS Malta.


“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

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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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Thinking of refugee mothers: PRESS STATEMENT on Mother’s Day 2016

Did you know that there is a new trend visible when one studies the registration of baby names in Malta? There are now babies called Gift, Hope, and Faith. Why? Not because the native Maltese have embraced those names, but because Malta is embracing migrant and refugee mothers. You were a gift to your mother, but imagine the blessing a mother feels when she gives birth to a child in a new country, having fallen pregnant before she fled a war or persecution at home, or having fallen pregnant while on the journey to a safe harbour – pregnant not always of her own will. And yet, the new life in this new place, for a desperate, hopeful mother, can be a gift.

Please consider what motherhood means to you as you celebrate this Mother’s Day. Your mother has often been your greatest ally, your strongest champion, your fiercest protector. Our mothers are the source of our most primal human relationship, perhaps especially when they are absent. But we all understand instinctively their value, their potential in our lives, and what becoming and remaining a mother entails.

So many of us have been lucky enough to live in a country where our mothers are able to keep us safe in the simplest of ways. Our formative challenges are confined to other children’s meanness in the playground, navigating all the learning there is before us, or the everyday cuts and scrapes of our play.

Refugee women in Malta see all those challenges while having emerged from situations of terror. Though this is hard for us, with our great fortune, to imagine, please try to imagine it this Mother’s Day.

With the unprecedented numbers of refugees arriving in Europe in the past year or so – 644,000 in 2015 alone – come unprecedented numbers of mothers. Of that 644,000, 34% were women and children: that means, potentially, 218,960 mother-child bonds in peril.

Please think of how many cases see those bonds broken because so many refugee mothers leave home without their children: seeking to reach safety and establish some optimism in their futures, and then trying to bring their children to Malta. We all know, see, and read that the bond is broken too often because mothers arrive by boat, just barely, when their children have died at sea. What is it like to save your child from drowning? What is it like to continue living after you couldn’t save your child, no matter how tightly and for how long you held on?

“This Mother’s Day, please dedicate a moment of gratitude, a sunny lunch, flowers, to your mother. But when you see a refugee mother, with or without her own beloved children, please also be kind to her and wish her a happy Mother’s Day. We may not understand everything our own mothers have fought to have us grow strong and capable; please know that we can only imagine what a refugee mother has fought.” (Neil Falzon, aditus foundation Director)

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International Human Rights Day Press Statement: “Talk to human rights defenders, they work for us all.”

The Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM) stresses the crucial role played by its Member Organisations in ensuring Malta remains a safe, harmonious and inclusive place for all persons. The Platform’s 29 non-governmental organisations are active in several areas, striving to ensure that their beneficiaries do not face exclusion, violence, poverty, discrimination, harassment and other human rights violations. As believers and promoters of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, commemorated today, all our Member Organisations are at the forefront of standing up for the invisible, the ignored and the set-aside.

In commemoration of 2015 International Human Rights Day, the Platform invites Malta to remember those NGO staff members, administrators, volunteers who passionately and selflessly aim to restore dignity and humanity to so many lives. Through the provision of basic, yet fundamental services, our Member Organisations fill gaps where the State is unable or unwilling to reach out: medical, financial, psychological, social, legal, administrative, spiritual, artistic, as so many more services.

It is also thanks to many of our Member Organisations that Malta can boast its high level of legal and administrative protection for children, women, the LGBTI community, persons with disabilities, persons with mental health problems, access to arts and culture, etc.

Yet despite the extremely valid work performed by our Member Organisations, ultimately benefitting the entire nation, many of them face regular abuse, harassment, bullying, threats and false accusations. It is unacceptable that persons and their family members are put at risk or through unnecessary stress and anxiety for their legitimate defence of Malta’s vulnerable communities, for the valid questions they ask and for their expectation of a society based on rule of law and respect for core values and principles.

“Our Member Organisations work for the human rights of their direct beneficiaries, but also for ours. Let’s reach out and thank them for making Malta what it is today, and for urging a much better place for future generations.” Dr. Roberta Lepre, PHROM Chairperson.

The Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta stands in solidarity with its Member Organisations and invites Malta to offer maximum protection to its human rights defenders. This can be achieved through following and supporting their work, participating in their events, reading their publications and endorsing their statements and views, including through social media.

We also urge Malta to refrain from resorting to abusive language and threats, and instead to consider approaching its Member Organisations with valid queries about their work, their beneficiaries, the challenges they face and their views on how to improve Maltese society.


aditus foundation is a founder Member Organisation of the Platform, also acting as its Secretariat.