‘The right to live in dignity is a basic human right for all’ – NGO press statement on International Human Rights Day

We are shocked and saddened by the news of the death of Haji, the Somali man who died last Thursday under the bridge in Marsa. The grim discovery of his dead body, under the bridge that he had made his home, brought to light the disturbing but all too often hidden reality of poverty and homelessness among migrants in Malta.

Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding Haji’s death are not unique – our work is a daily encounter with people who cannot meet their basic needs. People for whom finding food and, at times, shelter is a constant struggle.

Their problems are often exacerbated by mental illness or alcohol dependence, which not only make people more vulnerable to poverty and homelessness in the first place, but also make it virtually impossible for them to break out of the destructive cycle of poverty without extensive support.

Although it would be facile to place all of the blame at the door of the state, it is clear that there is much more that can be done to ensure that migrants are able to live with dignity and effectively enjoy their rights.

Migrants, even those such as Haji who were granted protection, are provided with very limited support to rebuild their lives in Malta. Often they must turn to NGOs for help to learn the language, further their education, or to find a job or housing. Those struggling with mental illness or alcohol dependence, who need intensive services and support, are often unable to find it. This, coupled with difficulties finding work that is not precarious, seasonal or under-paid, and soaring rent prices, makes it increasingly difficult for migrants to live with dignity.

Over and above, policies that are apparently legitimate, often act as a barrier to the enjoyment of rights, leaving people trapped in poverty and destitution.

The right to live in dignity is a basic human right.

Today, as the world marks International Human Rights Day, we urge Government to address the issue of poverty even among the migrant population and to take steps to ensure that individuals living in destitution receive the support that they need to live with dignity.

Statement made by: aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Integra Foundation, International Association for Refugees, JRS Malta, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrant Women Association Malta, Migrants’ Network for Equality, People for Change Foundation, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta, SOS Malta.

Announcing Two New Projects!

aditus is pleased to announce two exciting new projects we’ve taken on, in cooperation with four esteemed partner organisations.

Project Integrated is an undertaking shared by aditus, JRS Malta and Integra Foundation, with the support of UNHCR Malta. The three Maltese NGOs will integrate their best efforts, until the end of 2015, for the sake of better integrating beneficiaries of international protection in the local context – to help them profit fully from their human rights and to restore their pride as independent and successful contributors to society.

In anticipation of the integration policy which Malta is meant to publish this year, Project Integrated will work to help beneficiaries see some of the everyday benefits that come directly, in theory, from their protected status. In education, healthcare and employment, for example, many obstacles remain, even as beneficiaries have the right to all three: We intend to advance integration through counselling, facilitating access to services, monitoring the practical lapses in integration and ongoing advocacy with the Maltese authorities and the press.

In particular, aditus will offer its legal expertise to Project Integrated through the further mobilisation of its Pro Bono Unit. aditus will also build on the insights gained in our earlier projects, especially the Stakeholder Information Sessions, to organise capacity-building activities with its partners.

Next, as a member of the European Network on Statelessness, aditus will be the Maltese focal point for the project Protecting Stateless Persons from Arbitrary DetentionThe European Network on Statelessness is a group of NGOs, academic initiatives and individual experts with over 90 members in 30 European countries. The Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion will be an expert partner on the project; and in March, American photojournalist Greg Constantine will be in Malta to document the problem. Nowhere People, the website featuring his work on statelessness, is here.

Protecting Stateless Persons from Arbitrary Detention, a three-year project, will address the increase in Europe of immigration detention, including as a form of punishment, and the state criminalisation of irregular migration, the lack of protection for the stateless and the gulf between the rights afforded to the stateless on paper, according to legal standards, and the actual realisation of those rights. The gulf, in fact, leaves many stateless persons vulnerable to arbitrary detention in Europe.

Protecting Stateless Persons will study each national reality of statelessness, offer region- and country-specific tools to protect the stateless, train lawyers, NGOs and others to use those tools and advocate for protection.

PRESS RELEASE: European Parliament elections are an opportunity to reiterate core values

We take the opportunity offered by the upcoming European Parliament (EP) elections to direct the spotlight onto the human rights dimension of Saturday’s voting. In this regard, a very active exercise of the right to political participation in Malta is positively noted. Yet despite such an enthusiastic approach to political participation, we question why the local EP campaigns almost totally failed to engage with any of the core values enshrined in the EU Treaties and the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. Such values include the rule of law, equality and non-discrimination, and democracy.

The EP elections should challenge us to evaluate the role we want to play as Maltese voters in the formulation of the EU’s identity as a promoter of fundamental values within and outside of the EU.

We should be asking how we can contribute to the creation of safer and more secure societies where all persons can live free and dignified lives. We should be discussing what role we want the EU to play in advocating for a more peaceful world. We should be wondering how we can best urge the EU to show more solidarity in picking up and rebuilding the tragic remains of shattered communities.

If we expect our governments and the EU to recognise our own human rights and those of other people, it is our duty to constantly put human rights on their agendas. We therefore strongly urge all voters to give human rights a central place in their exercise of Saturday’s vote.

The statement is available here (.pdf).