My time spent working with refugees has taught me many things: the sheer strength of the human spirit, the tragedy of loss and suffering born of human egoism, neglect and violence, the capacity of the nation state to deny the right to rights and the people’s capacity to be complicit…and also to resist.
How does one convey what it was like to work in detention, to someone who has never set foot inside a detention centre? How to bring home the devastating impact of detention, so neatly defined as “deprivation of liberty or confinement in a closed place, which [one] …is not allowed to leave at will”, on the lives of men, women and children, which, even after so many years of working with detainees, even I feel I cannot begin to understand?
These are excerpts taken from Our Island: Personal Accounts of Protecting Refugees in Malta, a book soon to be published by aditus foundation. Our Island gathers the personal experiences of those people who experienced Malta’s encounter with refugees, as it seeks to document important moments and suggest lessons learnt.
Whilst much is said of refugees in Malta, little is documented in terms of the early years of these arrivals and how, throughout the decades, these arrivals shaped various parts of Maltese communities.
Our Island invited directly involved individuals to write about their experiences, thoughts and significant moments. Our aim is to document important years in Malta’s social and community history, by gathering informal and personal accounts from those persons who experienced it first hand.
The book covers important themes such as the government’s reaction and response, the detention regime, the asylum procedure, rescue at sea, community mobilisation and much more!
We want to share these accounts in order to appreciate them, learn from them and assess the impact of refugee arrivals on Malta.
Contributors to Our Island are: Katrine Camilleri (JRS Malta), Maria Pisani (Integra Foundation, former Head of IOM Office in Malta), Mario Friggieri (former Refugee Commissioner), Michael Camilleri (human rights lawyer), Ali Konate (founder of the Migrants’ Network for Equality), Tonio Borg (former Minister for Justice and Home Affairs), Colonel Clinton J. O’Neill (Armed Forces of Malta), Mgr. Alfred Vella (Malta Emigrants’ Commission) and Paolo Artini (UNHCR).
Neil Falzon, our Director, provides an Introduction.
The book will be published soon and made available either directly from our offices or through leading bookstores. Contact us if you want to reserve your copy (against a donation to the organisation).
Our Island is funded through the Creative Communities Fund of Arts Council Malta.