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.
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:
- 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
- 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)