Stability not Uncertainty: Migrant community demands fair rights

On Monday 4 October 2021, the migrant community of Malta met in Valletta to protest against the discriminatory and inhumane treatment at the hand of authorities and public bodies, such as Identity Malta. The protest, which was carried out peacefully and in compliance with Covid regulations, began in front of the Parliament of Malta and reached the Ministry Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement. It carried the slogan: ‘Stability not Uncertainty’.

This protest had the main purpose of highlighting the seriousness of the situation that migrants are experiencing on the island. The problem of people moving from one nation to another is part of a global history and it must always be remembered that people migrate by risking their lives to escape poverty or to escape conflict and not always for fun or pleasure. 

Migrants who arrive in Malta do not find a life of dignity and rights, but a large number of asylum seekers and migrants continue to face many unjust and unpleasant conditions, finding themselves in the condition of living life as if it was a privilege and not as a right.

“the gravely inhuman treatment of migrates and asylum seekers in Malta calls for immediate intervention from the European Commission.”

The Euro-Med Human Rights Observatory

That morning, over people protested to the sound of drums along with various organisations (including, us, JRS Malta, PeaceLab and Moviment Graffiti) that defend their rights, because they are tired of how the Government is dealing with policies in Malta. The protest revealed both the hopes and frustrations of people who daily face problems with the Maltese authorities, with employers and with the lack of stability in their lives.

Phrases such as “we are human not cheap labor” were shouted, referring to the migrant injured and dumped on the roadside by his employer last week, as well as the phrases “enough is enough” and “something must be done”. Furthermore, ample reference was made to the change in policy and the removal of the Special Residence Authorisation permit for migrants whose application for asylum had been rejected but could not return home. 

On arriving in front of the Ministry of Home Affairs, a number of migrants spoke out, and Ms. Doris Doku presented a series of proposals to Minister Byron Camilleri on behalf of the group. The migrants and asylum seekers affirmed that they “are gathered here in a peaceful protest to draw attention to the brutal way we are. systematically processed by the public authorities of Malta “

Here are some of the requests presented:  

  1. Taxes. Many migrant workers pay taxes in Malta and therefore contribute to the nation without having the same rights as other workers, without having access to social security or children’s allowance. Despite the work and the taxes paid, they are still denied a residence permit and access to benefits. 
  2. Legal framework. The legal framework governing asylum and migration in Malta is extremely complex and therefore most migrants fail to understand their rights. Protesters demand access to understandable information through the Internet or through the creation of a migrant-friendly information hub. 
  3. Specific residence authorization (SRA). Although the SRA was established as a new system aimed at reducing social exclusion among migrant communities and recognizing the efforts of those who actively contribute to society, migrants still have many doubts and questions, including: 
    1. Why were migrants denied the renewal of the residence permit only because they could not enter the Identity Malta offices several times, often due to the unprofessional attitude of the staff?
    2. Why were individuals in possession of all the necessary paperwork denied the renewal of documents only because the residence card has expired a few days ago? In most cases the card only expired because the person had not had access to the offices of Identity Malta. 
    3. Why were children denied the residence card when only one parent meets the SRA criteria and not the other? 
  4. Identity Malta office in Ħal Far. Identity Malta should implement the functions and duties of the public administration regarding citizenship, passports, visas etc. Identity Malta treats migrants and asylum-seekers unprofessionally in the performance of their duties, making them feel unwanted and discriminated against. 
  5. Best Interest Policy for Children in Residence Procedures. Malta is one of the signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. This should include: 
    1. Children have the right to their own identity through an identity document. 
    2. Children who move from their home country to another country as refugees should receive help and protection. 
    3. Children must be registered at birth and have an officially recognized name by the government. 
    4. Making rights real! Governments must do all they can to ensure that every child in their countries enjoys all the rights of the Convention. 

It was emphasised that migrant parents want to have explanations on why  children born to migrants or asylum-seekers in Malta do not have the same rights as other children. They also pointed out that with the denial of documents their children cannot travel and see the real-life experiences told to them at school. 

Summarily, the demonstrators requested the following:

  • The best interests of children should be the primary consideration in the country of residence. 
  • They ask the government to return all collected SRAs as soon as possible. 
  • That the SRA policy be reintroduced. 
  • That a system is put in place so that every person enjoys all rights as a human being. 
  • Finally, that Identity Malta staff are trained on how to serve different groups of people.

After the speeches the migrants were asked  to leave the letter addressed to Minister Byron Camilleri, under a locked glass door as no member or employee had the courtesy to collect it in person.

On Monday afternoon, the Minister responded to the calls made by migrants and asylum-seekers during the protest earlier in the day stating that Malta’s policy is “firm but fair” and that Malta’s policy on irregular migration is clear: it is about caring for those who are entitled to asylum and protection, but being firm with those who have refused their application and who are abusing the system. He stressed that the migrants whose asylum application was rejected must leave Malta and return to their country of origin. As for those who had obtained a residence permit under the SRA scheme, Camilleri said that it was a one-off authorisation with a time limit.