As we’re settling back into the office, after a much-needed and much-enjoyed holiday period, we’re already looking ahead at what 2016 could mean for us. In a few weeks’ time we’ll hold our annual strategy meeting – this is when we evaluate the previous year’s activities and map out the coming priorities and challenges.
Although it is indeed very early to even guess what human rights challenges 2016 might have in store, we are already working on issues that will definitely be requiring further attention in the coming months. Here’s what to expect from aditus for 2016:
National Migrant/Refugee Integration Strategy
The Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties (MSDC) has been working on a national migrant/refugee integration policy, and in June 2015 published its Framework Document, wherein it highlighted its priorities and overall vision. With integration being at the heart of our strategic objectives for a number of years, we’re taking this exercise extremely seriously.
We’re very happy that our key documents (Malta Integration Network, and Nitkellmu) on integration have been given attentive consideration by MSDC, with many of our recommendations featuring in this Framework Document, and also in other national human rights initiatives (more below).
We are now looking forward to the next step, essentially a clearer formulation of where Malta wants to go with migrant and refugee integration.
Revamped equality legislation and a National Human Rights Institution
On 10 December 2015 MSDC launched two Bills: one proposing to establish a National Human Rights Institution, and the other proposing to revise Malta’s equality legislation. The Bills are, in principle, welcome since they both aim to strengthen human rights protection for all persons. Both Bills increase protection from discrimination by ensuring legal protection of all persons and by securing independent and effective remedies in situations of violations.
We’ve been contributing to these two Bills, and are again happy to see that many of our technical recommendations have been taken on board by MSDC. Following the end of the public consultation periods (31 January), the Bills will be tweaked and presented in Parliament.
These process will keep us busy, in order to ensure stronger legal texts as well as an implementation framework that is inclusive, independent and truly effective.
No more unlawful detention?
Following years of advocacy, legal challenges and condemning reports, Malta has finally adopted legislation replacing automatic detention of asylum-seekers in an irregular situation with a system based on individual assessments. In transposing into Maltese law its various EU law obligations, Malta has taken a step closer to upholding human rights in its migration/asylum strategy.
We are now curious to see this new system functioning, also for us to determine which points require further attention (e.g. how effective is the remedy against illegal detention?) and what strategies are most appropriate for such issues.
What access to justice?
Thanks to the insights provided by our legal aid work, through our Pro Bono Unit and through projects such as Project Integrated, it’s clear that there are large groups of people who are neither able to enjoy their fundamental human rights nor to seek remedies when these are violated. We’ve supported over 100 individuals, Maltese and non-, by providing a variety of necessary legal services: basic information, referrals to other entities, filing of appeals, complaints to bodies such as the Ombudsman, liaison and advocacy with Government entities, etc.
Malta’s legal aid systems seem unable to provide such support to the most vulnerable, which is why we took the decision to beef up our Pro Bono Unit and shift ‘access to justice’ to the top of our list of priorities.
What does this mean for us, in practice? In a nutshell:
- research to identify strengths and gaps
- on-going service-provision
- more training for our team members
- funding applications focusing on legal aid.
Getting out there!
We’re often told that we have a strong public presence. That we’re a regular presence on TV or radio, going on and on about human rights this and human rights that. Good! We’re convinced there’s a much bigger need for human rights to be out there, everywhere, all the time.
This is why we established Malta’s first platform gathering human rights NGOs (PHROM) and why we often try to organise projects that are more fun, accessible and engaging.
2016 will see more of this through the finalisation of You Are What You Eat – a super-fun project throwing us deep into the complexities of Maltese food and migration – and the launch of Burning Bikinis, that will look into gender activism since the 1960’s to explore the role of women in Malta then, and today (project page still under construction).
So far, that’s what we know is going to hit us in 2016. We’re sure there’s more just round the corner…positively and also negatively.