The launch was a great success, with the upper gallery of the Casino Maltese full of friends and fans of the project, and books flying off the tables. Our guests included civil society colleagues, members of the press and many figures from Malta’s diverse migrant community.
Mary and Ousmane, two contributors to Our Island II, as well asaditus Director Neil Falzon, Senior Communication Coordinator at ECRE Villads Zahle and European Parliament Office in Malta Acting Head Anna Zammit addressed the gathered guests at the start of the evening.
Neil, in his opening speech, contemplated the
value of Our Island as a vehicle for the
revelation that is migrant voices and first-person migrant stories: new
arrivals making Malta their own and explaining how that endeavour continues to
unfold in their own words — rather
than either being rendered anonymous and invisible by generic news coverage,
public discourse and government policy, or being spoken for through the work of
their NGO advocates.
In closing, Mary, originally from Sierra Leone, offered humour and encouragement. She arrived in Malta as a war refugee, wife and mother. She is now a Mater Dei Hospital paediatric nurse, homeowner and proud taxpayer studying for a master’s degree — having started her university education in Malta. Mary insisted, “Malta gave me a chance, a second chance at life… So, brothers and sisters, do not be disheartened. To be a refugee is not a disease. You can make it. If I can make it, you can also make it.”
How can I obtain my copy of Our Island I and II?
For a copy of Our Island II (or Our Island I) against a nominal donation, write to us or give us a ring.
We call on the authorities in Malta to reconsider the terrorism charges laid against three teenagers who were arrested on 28 March following the docking of the El Hiblu I commercial vessel in the country.
The charges relate to an incident that occurred at the end of March, when some 100 migrants attempting to flee Libya were rescued in international waters by a commercial vessel that was en route to Libya. The vessel reportedly rescued the migrants and initially informed them that they would be taken to Europe but then turned around to head back to Libya. The migrants protested in desperation and the ship was steered again toward Malta. The accused, aged 15, 16 and 19, have been charged under Maltese laws for allegedly hijacking the ship and forcing it to go to Malta. Some of the charges are punishable by life imprisonment. We understand that the three are due to appear in court on 20 May.
When issuing licenses for teams to participate in European competitions, the Malta Football Association must ensure that football clubs comply with a number of standards issued by the Union of European Football Association (UEFA). One of these requirements is that clubs actively combat racism. David Abulafia, an English historian, refers to the Mediterranean as “probably the most vigorous place of interaction between different societies on the face of this planet” which highlights the importance of such initiatives.
A 2017 study conducted by Johann Caruana questioned whether footballers experience racism in Malta. He found that “Malta is another Mediterranean country in which football racism is present”. He interviewed ten athletes, nine of whom confirmed this reality. One of the respondents claimed that racism in Maltese football is subtle and labelled it, “not a nice nothing”, while other respondents described it as being, “something disturbing”.
On 6 April Malta FA teamed up with us to conduct a session discussing racism in football with local football clubs. The session started with Peter Busuttil, representing Malta FA, giving an overview of the various initiatives and projects implemented by Malta FA, such as All In – All for Football. Peter also underlined how some of Malta FA’s previous initiatives have also been recognised by UEFA for best practice amongst all the other European football associations.
The most prominent football teams on the island were present. Their representatives came with a positive attitude showcasing their goodwill and genuine love for the sport. In fact, they participated wholeheartedly in the conversation showing that such opportunities to voice their opinions are sorely needed.
Although everyone recognised the fact that racism is present in Maltese football, they held that such an attitude is not coming from within the administration of the respective football teams. They commented that racism in football is simply a reflection of a wider sentiment present in today’s society.
The discussion then veered towards establishing a proper definition of racism and what practices should be prohibited with club premises and activities. Some argued that jokes in the locker-rooms should not be considered racist as they are endemic to every team and necessary in order to have a united group of players.
Our Director (Neil), acting as discussion facilitator, recognised such dynamics whilst explaining typical minority/majority power dynamics, cautioning that a player might choose not to show his true emotions in order to avoid being alienated from the group. Most representatives agreed with this point and highlighted the fact that it should be the manager’s responsibility to make sure that players respect each other.
Another interesting point was raised by a representative of the Maltese Youth FA. She pointed out that there are a number of conditions which a young player must satisfy before being allowed to participate in a competitive match. This might result in excluding some youth players from taking part in the sport, particularly young people from disadvantaged contexts such as refugees and migrants.
During the session we learnt that, in Malta, we also have a Match Observer role with a number of responsibilities. One of these is to note and report any racial discrimination or abuse occurring during the match. The Match Observer present during our discussion stated that, whilst during last year’s season there were five reported incidents, this year there was only one reported incident. However, the Match Observer clearly expressed the fact that racism in Maltese stadiums is present, claiming that “ir-razziżmu huwa lampanti”.
It was clear throughout the sessions that both the Malta FA and local football clubs firmly oppose all forms of racism and recognise that it is in their interests for such attitudes to be abolished. Enforcement remained a disputed issue, with the clubs underlining the challenges posed by a system that requires them to monitor their fans’ behaviour during a football match. They also pointed out that identifying the perpetrators of racial chants is complicated since in most cases fans from different clubs sit in the same stands.
We are extremely happy to have collaborated with Malta FA on this important initiative.
It underlined the need for all stakeholders to continue this dialogue in order identify the best way to prevent and tackle racism in football.
We look forward to maintaining this engagement with Malta FA, as we believe in the power of football to bring about social change and to foster refugee and migrant integration.
There are circumstances you find yourself in that absolutely strip you of all human dignity. It is a painful thing.
When people look at refugees…sometimes they’ve been through so much, just let them be. They don’t want to trouble you. They just want to fit in.
I know the feeling because that’s what I have always wanted, just a place I can say, “Look, I’m home.”
Our Island II: Personal Accounts of Refugees in Malta gives space to 12 refugee and migrant stories to speak for themselves. It presents stories reflecting differences in the time spent in Malta, cultural and national background, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, age, education and profession and family composition, here and away.
Our Island II also attempts to span a wide range of emotions and experiences: the anxiety caused by being locked up, surprise at a Maltese woman’s flirtatiousness, peer pressure within one’s own ethnic community, helplessness at being perpetually undocumented, pure joy at being united with family members, stress due to the constant need to ‘integrate’.
So when we said we were going to get married, some people were thinking, “An African marriage? How could it be nice?” But as soon as they arrived at our wedding, they were surprised at how people were, and at how people dressed…
People wore traditional clothes, and just like my boss, they were all dancing! When African music is put on, you not only want to listen, you want to move!
That’s why it was so much fun.
12 stories: Nicky, Adil, Farah, Michael, Mary, Sekou, Agnes, Omar, Emad, Dursa, Hana, Ousman. Well, 11 stories and Emad’s poem. As you read through the stories, you will be invited into 12 very different worlds. You will get to know our contributors and be given a glimpse of their lives in Malta. They are indeed very different worlds, yet united by possibly two significant elements: the relationship between Malta and all narrators is based on otherness; and their protagonists are, quite honestly, regular people.
Our Island II will be launched on the 10th May 2019 at the Casino Maltese, Valletta. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Malta page now includes up-to-date data on new categories like withdrawal of nationality, reduction of statelessness, and bilateral return and readmission agreements, as well as a shorter country briefing, which outline recommendations for the Government on how to improve the treatment of stateless people and to prevent and reduce statelessness.
The Index country profile on Malta provides analysis for over 25 different categories. Law, policy and practice under each of these categories are assessed against international norms and good practice and marked with a clear and easy to understand assessment key.
At the end of 2018, a new regularisation route was introduced for people refused asylum who are unable to leave the country – some of whom may be stateless – provided they have lived in the country for five years and can meet other conditions. The new ‘SRA’ status gives individuals and their family members access to a two-year residence permit and a range of socio-economic rights.
However, this positive change does little to address one of the root causes of people ending up in irregularity: the lack of a procedure to identify and determine statelessness and grant stateless people the rights due to them under the 1954 Convention. Malta remains one of only four EU member states yet to accede to the Convention.
Further steps are also needed to protect stateless people from arbitrary detention, and to prevent and reduce statelessness in Malta. The safeguard granting stateless children born in Malta a conditional right to acquire nationality does not prevent statelessness in all cases and has still not been implemented in practice; and provisions relating to conferral of nationality by descent that were ruled discriminatory by the European Court of Human Rights in 2011 remain in place.
What have we been doing?
In the past year aditus foundation has been very busy putting the issue of statelessness on Malta’s national agenda. We flagged our human rights concerns to the Universal Periodic Review and, thanks to our submission and interventions, several States urged Malta to ratify the 1954 Statelessness Convention. Malta did not agree to accept these recommendations, yet we’re extremely glad that statelessness is now a UPR issue for Malta!
We also written formally to the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, reminding him of commitments publicly made by Malta that it would be exploring the possibility of ratifying the 1954 Convention. In this regard, we have always urged the Ministry to designate the Office of the Refugee Commissioner as the administrative entity to process statelessness applications, given its expertise in searching and applying Country of Origin Information.
About the Statelessness Index
The Statelessness Index is an online tool that assesses how countries in Europe protect stateless people and what they are doing to prevent and reduce statelessness. It is the first to provide comprehensive and accessible comparative analysis for 18 countries in Europe, including Malta. It allows users to quickly understand which areas of law, policy and practice can be improved by states.
The Index was
developed by the European Network on Statelessness (ENS), in partnership with
aditus. It is an invaluable tool for sharing good practice and raising
awareness of issues that affect stateless people.
forward to working with key stakeholders to facilitate the change needed to
improve the lives of stateless men, women and children living in Malta.
If you have any questions regarding the Index, please do not hesitate to contact us.