#Safe4All: LGBTIQ+ refugees deserve protection!

On the occasion of Malta Pride 2022 and in the run up to Euro Pride Valletta 2023,

aditus foundation launched the #Safe4All Legal Initiative.

The initiative is a Bill proposing to amend Malta’s asylum legislation.

We want to ensure that LGBTIQ+ refugees are truly and effectively protected in Malta.

Our proposal is simple: stop describing as ‘safe’ those countries that criminalise LGBTIQ+ identities or behaviour. It is a simple and straightforward legal amendment. If adopted, the Bill will allow persons fleeing violence and persecution due to their sexual orientation or gender identity to present their claims in a more effective manner, thereby reducing the risks of removing them to unsafe countries.

We are presenting #Safe4All to the Hon. Rebecca Buttigieg, Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms and Equality, as our Malta Pride 2022 activities. With this initiative, we are inviting the Parl. Secretary to commit to genuinely putting LGBTIQ+ equality into practice in terms of the spirit of Malta’s LGBTIQ Equality Strategy and Action Plan

In terms of Malta’s asylum legislation, the Home Affairs Minister is able to declare any country as ‘safe’. This declaration means that refugees originating from these ‘safe’ countries are rushed through their asylum procedure and denied basic guarantees. In particular, they are denied the possibility of appealing a negative decision. It is our view that this is a violation of EU law and goes contrary to international human rights standards. 

Malta has declared a number of countries where LGBTIQ+ persons face criminal punishment, simply for living their identities, as being ‘safe countries’. Effectively, Malta is endorsing State persecution of LGBTIQ+ refugees by choosing to ignore the laws and practices of countries that subject LGBTIQ+ persons to institutionalised discrimination, imprisonment and – in some cases – forced labour. 

Some of these countries also penalise NGOs and activists, meaning the staff and volunteers of organisations like aditus foundation, MGRM, ARC, LGBTIQ+ Gozo and Drachma Parents face daily threats of arrest and imprisonment. 

If Malta wants to be a global beacon for LGBTIQ+ rights, including whilst hosting Euro Pride 2023, it cannot continue ignoring the plight of LGBTIQ+ refugees reaching its shores.

Malta must be #Safe4All.

Ali* is a gay man from a country Malta describes as ‘safe’. When still a teenager, he was raped. He was subsequently raped on his way to Malta. As many other fleeing refugees, he had no choice but to get onto an unsafe boat to travel to safety. 

Following his arrival, he was immediately detained in Safi Barracks. Nobody told him that his sexual orientation and experiences of violence were relevant for his claim for protection. Nobody offered him protection during the months he was detained. He never mentioned his identity or experiences, including during his asylum interview. 

Why would he?

Because he is from a ‘safe’ country, his asylum claim was immediately labelled “manifestly unfounded”. Still in detention, he was then ordered to leave Malta and to return to his ‘safe’ home.

Our lawyers met Ali by sheer chance. We are now working on his case, hoping to have it reassessed. 

His home is not safe.

*not his real name

69 countries criminalise same-sex relations. The ILGA-World Map, gives a very clear picture of the situation on the safety of LGBTIQ+ communities worldwide

Of the countries described by Malta as ‘safe’, several are actually quite unsafe for LGBTIQ+ persons. These are some examples of reported state-supported violations:

  • Algeria – criminalisation of consensual same-sex activities and public decency provisions with up to 8 years imprisonment. Also laws targeting freedom of speech and NGOs/activists;
  • Bangladesh – up to 10 years imprisonment;
  • Morocco – up to 8 years imprisonment and has laws targeting freedom of speech and NGOs/activists;
  • Tunisia – up to 8 years imprisonment and has laws targeting freedom of speech and NGOs/activists;
  • Ghana – up to 8 years imprisonment;
  • Senegal – up to 8 years imprisonment and laws targeting NGOs/activists;
  • Jamaica – from 10 years upwards;
  • Egyptde facto criminalisation and laws targeting freedom of speech and NGOs/activists. For example, in the period from October 2013 to March 2017, at least 232 individuals were arrested in Egypt based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

A simple Bill to amend Malta’s asylum legislation.

European organisations:

  • European Council on Refugees and Exiles, ECRE
  • Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, PICUM
  • ILGA-Europe
  • Transgender Europe, TGEU

Maltese organisations:

  • African Media Association Malta
  • Association for Justice, Equality and Peace
  • Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation
  • Drachma LGBTI
  • Drachma Parents Group
  • Free El Hiblu 3 Campaign
  • Integra Foundation
  • The JAM Project Gozo
  • Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta)
  • Humanists Malta
  • LGBTI+ Gozo
  • Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM)
  • Migrant Women Association (Malta)
  • MOAS
  • Moviment Graffitti
  • Office of the Dean – Faculty of Education (University of Malta)
  • People for Change Foundation
  • RAAH
  • Repubblika
  • Richmond Foundation
  • SOS Malta
  • Tama
  • Women’s Rights Foundation. 

Do you want to join the list and urge Malta it is indeed #Safe4All? Write to us now!

Read the full explanatory note here, and don’t hesitate to contact us for further information on how you can support this campaign!

  • all LGBTIQ+ asylum applicants are refugees, but that they should all be given a fair and equal chance to present their stories!
  • all asylum applicants from the countries we are targeting are refugees, but that they should all be given a fair and equal chance to present their stories!
  • LGBTIQ+ persons are vulnerable or weak, but that their specific situation as persons fleeing their own homes often means they have suffered loss, trauma or human rights abuses;
  • LGBTIQ+ asylum applicants from these countries should receive special treatment, but that they should all be given a fair and equal chance to present their stories!
  • LGBTIQ+ asylum applicants from these countries should receive treatment different to non-LGBTIQ+ applicants, but that they should all be given a fair and equal chance to present their stories!

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