The 2020 Statelessness Index and Malta’s developments in this regard

Who may be considered ‘stateless’?

Stateless individuals are people who have no nationality and thus, are often denied the right to access the most basic of rights since their lack of evidence of a legal status disallows them from benefitting from their fundamental rights such as the right to education, medical care as well as employment. Various human rights treaties establish the right to nationality and for this to be enjoyed in a non-discriminatory and non-arbitrary manner. However, as evinced by the recent Statelessness Index published by the European Network on Statelessness (ENS), progress in this area is quite slow-moving in both Malta as well as the remainder of Europe. 

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An Update on Malta and Statelessness

A big step for Malta in 2019!

Once again, aditus foundation worked closely with the European Network on Statelessness (ENS) to research and compile comparative information on statelessness in Malta in the 2019 Statelessness Index.

One great outcome of our advocacy work is the accession by Malta to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons on 11 December. The 1954 Convention, which now has 94 parties, establishes a framework for the international protection of stateless people and is the most comprehensive codification of their rights. To be stateless is not to be recognised as a citizen by any state under the operation of its law. As a consequence, a stateless person cannot enjoy her fundamental civil, political, economic, cultural and social rights.

As we highlighted before, this is a welcome development in Malta’s approach to protecting people affected by statelessness and comes following the Government’s pledge at the UNHCR High Level Segment on Statelessness in October, as well as our joint advocacy efforts with UNHCR Malta.

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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.