Our views on the recent amendments to Malta’s citizenship rules

We have intentionally refrained for issuing a public statement on the recently adopted amendments to Malta’s citizenship laws, primarily in view of the highly politicised tone of the relevant discussions.  Yet following several requests from international media agencies to provide a human rights perspective on these amendments, and because of the very serious nature and implications of specific statements made by the Government and the Opposition we feel that a human rights angle needs to be injected into the broader discussion.

As a human rights NGO aditus foundation will not assess the desirability or otherwise of the citizenship scheme, as this is not our remit.  However, we are concerned that the amendments reinforce the negative message Malta has insisted on sending to migrant and refugee communities living in Malta.  The new scheme further emphasizes the ‘unworthiness’ of migrants and refugees who, for years, have been contributing to Maltese society in several ways by paying taxes and social security contributions, being employed in Maltese companies, establishing their own business ventures, engaging in social activities with Maltese people and generally doing their utmost to integrate into what is, ultimately, an extremely challenging environment for them to integrate in.  By exclusively emphasising financial contributions of migrants, the Government directly informs all these migrants and refugees that Malta is not and will probably never be a place they can call home.

We are also concerned at the lack of procedural transparency in the application and review process, and it consequential potential lack of procedural guarantees.  Malta’s citizenship legislation is already based on blatant arbitrariness, with full discretion in the hands of the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security and no effective remedies available to migrants whose citizenship applications are rejected.  We feel that placing this new procedure in the hands of a private company merely further emphasizes this absence of transparency and accountability.

Furthermore, in view of the fact that Malta has consistently refused to sign and ratify the1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, we are concerned at statements relating to the withdrawal of legitimately granted citizenship as such actions, especially where politically-motivated and outside any objective legal regime, could lead to individuals and families being stateless, lacking the protection of any state.