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.
Six years ago, the Women’s Rights Foundation successfully campaigned for the introduction of emergency contraception by filing a judicial protest on behalf of 102 women in Malta.
Since then, we never looked back, and we are now taking our advocacy for sexual and reproductive rights to the courts of law once again.
We are standing here, together with the organisations that form the coalition ‘Voice for Choice’ and other supporters, on behalf of one hundred and eighty-eight (188) persons of childbearing age, who could all potentially get pregnant, who have just filed a judicial protest against the Minister of Health, the Parliamentary Secretary for Equality and Reforms and the State Advocate for breaching their fundamental human rights.
Abortion bans do not change the fact that abortion is a necessary health service and banning abortion does not stop it from happening.
In fact, as we know all too well, every day, a woman in Malta has an abortion, yet we remain the only nation in the EU that criminalises these women and does not allow the procedure to take place safely and legally, irrespective of the circumstances.
This blatant violation of human rights by the state, comes at the cost of women’s physical, mental, and social health as women continue to live in fear, stigma, and shame in our society.
Among us, the one hundred and eighty-eight (188) persons who have signed this judicial protest are persons who have had an abortion, for various circumstances, in various countries and using various methods, some less safe than others.
Among us there are also persons who had to go through a forced pregnancy, at the detriment to their physical or mental health.
Among us there are persons who were raped or sexually abused and were terrified that a pregnancy would result from that abuse, knowing full well that instead of finding support, they would find condemnation if they had an abortion.
Among us there are also persons who have health conditions who live with the fear that an accidental pregnancy could have serious implications for their wellbeing.
We, the one hundred and eighty-eight persons who have signed this judicial protest come from all walks of life with ages that vary from 18 to 50.
There are those among us who are mothers who want a better future for their children, while some of us are young and are looking towards a brighter future. This is an issue that transcends age.
There are those among us who are professionals: teachers, lawyers, social workers, psychologists, doctors and nurses, while some of us are students, labourers, and home makers. This is an issue that transcends social class.
There are those among us who identify as lesbian women, gender non-binary persons or trans men. This is an issue for the LGBT community too.
There are those among us who have a disability whether visible or not. This is an issue for persons with disabilities too.
There are those among us who come from countries where women are persecuted daily and hoped to find a better life in a developed European country and instead were faced with a different kind of persecution. This is an issue for migrant communities too.
There are those among us who support the Labour Party, those who support the Nationalist party, those who support ADPD or Volt, and those among us who have no political affiliation. Because this issue transcends political beliefs and allegiances.
In the last decades Malta has made great strides to be a more inclusive society. The current government prides itself of this fact. It is therefore time that the laws related to abortion are addressed to reflect the reality of people’s lives. Women, girls and any person who could become pregnant who needs to terminate their pregnancy for any reason are not second-class citizens.
We are therefore here to ensure that all persons who could get pregnant, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, sexuality, social class, religious or political beliefs, ability or age are supported, respected and protected whatever their circumstances and decisions.
The political class of this country had every chance to do what is right and our pleas have been ignored for too long. We are pledging today that this judicial protest is only the first step. We are ready to take our battle to the courts of law, both local and European, and we will be heard. We will not be ignored. Not anymore.
This press release is endorsed by the following organisations:
Sitt snin ilu, il-Fondazzjoni għad-Drittijiet tan-Nisa nediet b’suċċess kampanja għall-introduzzjoni ta’ kontraċezzjoni ta’ emerġenza permezz ta’ protest ġudizzjarju f’isem mija u żewġ nisa f’Malta.
Minn dak iż-żmien ‘l hawn, qatt ma ħarisna lura, u issa qed nerġgħu nirrikorru għall-qorti fl-attiviżmu tagħna.
Qegħdin hawn, flimkien mal-għaqdiet li jiffurmaw il-koalizzjoni ‘Voice for Choice’ u attivisti oħra, f’isem mija u tmienja u tmenin (188) persuna, li kollha potenzjalment jistgħu joħorġu tqal, li għadhom kif ressqu protest ġudizzjarju kontra l- Ministru tas-Saħħa, is-Segretarja Parlamentari għall-Ugwaljanza u Riformi u l-Avukat tal-Istat għall-ksur tad-drittijiet umani fundamentali tagħna.
Il-projbizzjoni tal-abort ma tbiddilx il-fatt li l-abort huwa servizz tas-saħħa bżonnjuż u l-liġi tal-abort ma twaqqfux milli jseħħ.
Fil-fatt, kif nafu sew, kuljum, mara f’Malta tagħmel abort, u Malta hi l-uniku pajjiż fl-UE li tikkriminalizza lil dawn in-nisa u ma tħallix il-proċedura ssir b’mod sigur u legali, irrispettivament miċ- ċirkostanzi.
Dan il-ksur sfaċċat tad-drittijiet umani mill-istat, iseħħ għall-iskapitu tas-saħħa fiżika, mentali u soċjali tan-nisa hekk kif in-nisa jkomplu jgħixu fil-biża’, l-istigma u l-mistħija fis-soċjetà tagħna.
Fostna, il-mija u tmienja u tmenin (188) persuna li ffirmaw dan il-protest ġudizzjarju hemm persuni li għamlu abort għal raġunijiet varji, f’pajjiżi varji, f’ċirkustanzi varji, uħud iktar siguri minn oħrajn.
Fostna hemm ukoll persuni li kellhom jgħaddu minn tqala sfurzata għad-detriment tas-saħħa fiżika u mentali tagħhom
Xi wħud minna ġew stuprati jew abbużati sesswalment u kienu mwerwrin li joħorġu tqal minn dak l-abbuż, meta kienu jafu sew li minflok ħa jsibu appoġġ, se jsibu kundanna jekk jagħmlu abort.
Fostna hemm ukoll persuni b’kundizzjoni ta’ saħħa li jgħixu bil-biża’ li tqala aċċidentali jista’ jkollha implikazzjonijiet serji għal saħħithom.
Aħna, il-mija u tmienja u tmenin (188) persuna li ffirmajna dan il-protest ġudizzjarju ġejjin minn kull qasam tal-ħajja b’etajiet li jvarjaw minn 18 sa 50 sena.
Fostna hemm dawk li huma ommijiet li jridu futur aħjar għal uliedhom, filwaqt li wħud minna huma żgħar u qed iħarsu lejn futur isbaħ. Din hija kwistjoni li tmur lil hinn mill-età.
Fostna hemm dawk li huma professjonisti: għalliema, avukati, ħaddiema soċjali, psikologi, tobba u infermiera, filwaqt li xi wħud minna huma studenti, ħaddiema, u nisa tad-dar. Din hija kwistjoni li tmur lil hinn mill-klassi soċjali.
Hemm dawk fostna li jidentifikaw bħala nisa lesbjani, persuni gender non-binary jew irġiel trans. Din hija kwistjoni li tolqot lill-komunità LGBT ukoll.
Hemm dawk fostna li għandhom diżabilità sew jekk viżibbli jew le. Din hija kwistjoni li tolqot lill-persuni b’diżabbilta’ wkoll.
Xi wħud minna ġejjin minn pajjiżi fejn in-nisa jiġu ppersegwitati kuljum u ġew Malta b’tama li jsibu ħajja aħjar f’pajjiż żviluppat Ewropew u minflok kienu ffaċċjati b’tip differenti ta’ persekuzzjoni. Din hija kwistjoni li tolqot lill-komunitajiet tal-immigranti wkoll.
Fostna hemm min jappoġġja lill-Partit Laburista, min jappoġġja lill-partit Nazzjonalista, min jappoġġja lill-ADPD u lil Volt, u min fostna li m’għandux affiljazzjoni politika. Għax din il-kwistjoni li tmur lil hinn mit-twemmin u l-lealtàjiet politiċi.
Matul l-aħħar snin, Malta għamlet passi kbar biex tkun soċjetà aktar inklużiva. Il-gvern attwali jiftaħar b’dan il-fatt. Għalhekk wasal iż-żmien li l-liġijiet relatati mal-abort jiġu indirizzati biex jirriflettu r-realtà tal-ħajja kurrenti. In-nisa, il-bniet u kull persuna li tista’ tinqabad tqila li għandhom bżonn jitterminaw it-tqala għal kwalunkwe raġuni mhumiex ċittadini tat-tieni klassi.
Għalhekk qegħdin hawn biex niżguraw li l-persuni kollha li jistgħu joħorġu tqal, irrispettivament mis-sess, l-etniċità, is-sesswalità, it-twemmin reliġjuż jew politiku, l-abbilta’, il-klassi soċjali jew l-età tagħhom ikunu appoġġjati, rispettati u protetti jkunu xi jkunu ċ-ċirkostanzi u d-deċiżjonijiet tagħhom.
Il-klassi politika ta’ dan il-pajjiż kellhom kull ċans li jagħmlu dak li hu sewwa u t-talbiet tagħna ilhom jiġu injorati. Illum qed inwiegħdu li dan il-protest ġudizzjarju huwa biss l-ewwel pass. Aħna lesti nieħdu l-battalja tagħna quddiem il-qrati, kemm lokali kif ukoll Ewropej. Daqshekk ġejna njorati. Wasal iż-żmien li ninstemgħu.
Din l-istqarrija għall-istampa hi approvata minn dawn l-organizzazzjonijiet:
EC funded project Pioneering Anti-SLAPP Training for Freedom of Expression (PATFox) to provide training to legal professionals from autumn 2022
PATFox will design Europe’s first Anti-SLAPP curriculum for training across member states. Materials will be made freely available to all on project website antislapp.eu
Project showcase at digital rights conference RightsCon on Tuesday 7 June 12.30 CEST
Strategic Lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) are a growing threat to freedom of expression across the European Union, designed to scare journalists and human rights defenders into silence and restrict public debate. A new pan-European consortium, Pioneering Anti-SLAPP Training for Freedom of Expression (PATFox) will respond to this need by designing Europe’s first anti-SLAPP curriculum and providing training to legal professionals in 11 EU member states.
“SLAPPs are an assault on free expression and a form of harassment designed to silence journalists, human rights defenders and citizens exercising their democratic rights. The data suggests that the use of legal threats to silence speech in Europe has grown exponentially over the past few years.
“PATFox is a pioneering project – we think the first in the world – to design a cross-country curriculum specifically to train legal professionals in how to recognise SLAPPs and use the tools available to stop them in their tracks. We will be working across eleven EU member states to deliver innovative legal training that meets one of Europe’s most important free speech challenges.”
PATFox will operate in some of the countries with Europe’s worst SLAPP problems. Croatia’s journalism union reports over 900 ongoing legal cases against journalists, a significant proportion of which are likely to be SLAPPs. In Poland, PATFox partner Oko.press has been monitoring the “massive” use of legal pressure against activists by the authorities. In Slovenia, one investigative news outlet has been hit with 39 lawsuits. At the time of her death, Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was facing over 40 defamation suits linked to her work – a case which has become absolutely emblematic of the problem of SLAPPs and a major motivator for anti-SLAPP advocacy across the European Union.
Carla Camilleri, Assistant Director of Maltese NGO aditus foundation, said:
“Although SLAPPs are a pan European problem, Malta was found to have the highest number of SLAPPs per capita and therefore, as a Malta-based NGO, we feel that it is essential to increase the capacity of local legal professionals that would be likely to face or defend against such suits. Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination put the spotlight on the issue of abusive litigation used against those attempting to uncover corruption and expose the truth. Her assassination also led to the reform of defamation laws locally and also to the anti-SLAPP proposed directive at a European level, and therefore, it is crucial to bring such knowledge and training through PATfox to the local scene.”
Alessia Schiavon, Head of the Legal Department at the International Foundation Baltasar Garzón (FIBGAR), said:
“Legal empowerment is a crucial part of the transformation that is needed to address SLAPPs. Legal professionals play a critical role in upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms, but, when it comes to SLAPPs, most of the time they are not equipped with the required knowledge and skills to successfully defend their clients in court.”
The PATFox project responds to a call for training of legal professionals, judicial officials and potential SLAPP defendants included in the draft Recommendation published by the European Commission last month as part of its own anti-SLAPP initiative. Maltese legal scholar Professor Justin Borg-Barthet, based at University of Aberdeen – widely recognised as one of Europe’s leading experts on SLAPPs – will coordinate the provision of core curriculum materials alongside legal trainers in each PATFox partner country. They will draw on international human rights principles, EU law and local case law.
Additional related modules on protecting personal data (cybersecurity), financial forensics and whistleblowing to support the SLAPP training will also be made available, providing a holistic answer for legal professionals.
PATFox will be holding a workshop at RightsCon, the largest international digital rights conference in the world, titled, “Calling time on lawfare: designing a European anti-SLAPP curriculum.” The workshop has been scheduled for 12.30 CEST on Tuesday 7 June. The workshop is open to all, with RightsCon registration available free until 3 June.
Project curriculum materials will be published online, on the project website: antislapp.eu. Legal professionals in the 11 project countries are invited to register their interest in attending training by emailing the project firstname.lastname@example.org.
This project is co-funded by the European Commission (DG Justice).
We find ourselves extremely troubled over a series of recent cases that were reported to us, which have, in turn, forced us to issue this statement.
For those of you who are not aware, PEP or (post-exposure prophylaxis) is a medicine given to prevent HIV after a possible exposure. This medication is to be taken right away and is only effective for a 72-hour window. It is a vital medicine.
This medicine used to be stocked at the Mater Dei Pharmacy for use by the Accident and Emergency Department at Mater Dei and would be given to patients who desired it at a cost. However, it has recently come to our attention that Mater Dei Pharmacy is no longer stocking it – this is extremely worrying, to say the least.
The undersigned Maltese civil society organisations condemn Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of peaceful Ukraine and voice their solidarity both with Ukrainains and with the Russian people who are subjugated and repressed by Putin.
The Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo has said “might is not right”. We urge the Government of Malta to put words into action and:
support any and all targeted sanctions up to the highest level of the Russian government, as well as broad sanctions that will reduce Russia’s ability to conduct warfare;
end the sale of passports to Russian elites, who have benefited from Putin’s corruption;
indefinitely suspend bilateral agreements with Russia;
expel Russian diplomats, who work in support of the illegal invasion of Ukraine.
We also urge the Maltese government to show support and solidarity to the Ukrainian people to:
halt all forced returns of Ukrainians;
grant, as a minimum, Subsidiary Protection to all Ukrainian asylum-seekers;
release Ukrainians detained with a view to removal;