We’ve launched Our Island II: Personal Accounts of Refugees in Malta!

It is a book about integration and the paths that people follow — voluntarily or otherwise — as they slowly make Malta home, their island.

Neil Falzon, aditus Director, talking to the Times of Malta

On Friday, May 10, at the Casino Maltese, Valletta, aditus foundation launched Our Island II: Personal Accounts of Refugees in Malta with the support of the European Parliament Office in MaltaUNHCR Malta and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles. The publication of Our Island II, the second in the Our Island series of migration books, was funded through the President’s Award for Creativity, which is managed by Arts Council Malta.

The launch was a great success, with the upper gallery of the Casino Maltese full of friends and fans of the project, and books flying off the tables. Our guests included civil society colleagues, members of the press and many figures from Malta’s diverse migrant community.

Mary and Ousmane, two contributors to Our Island II, as well as aditus Director Neil Falzon, Senior Communication Coordinator at ECRE Villads Zahle and European Parliament Office in Malta Acting Head Anna Zammit addressed the gathered guests at the start of the evening.

Neil, in his opening speech, contemplated the value of Our Island as a vehicle for the revelation that is migrant voices and first-person migrant stories: new arrivals making Malta their own and explaining how that endeavour continues to unfold in their own words — rather than either being rendered anonymous and invisible by generic news coverage, public discourse and government policy, or being spoken for through the work of their NGO advocates.

In closing, Mary, originally from Sierra Leone, offered humour and encouragement. She arrived in Malta as a war refugee, wife and mother. She is now a Mater Dei Hospital paediatric nurse, homeowner and proud taxpayer studying for a master’s degree having started her university education in Malta. Mary insisted, “Malta gave me a chance, a second chance at life… So, brothers and sisters, do not be disheartened. To be a refugee is not a disease. You can make it. If I can make it, you can also make it.

How can I obtain my copy of Our Island I and II?

For a copy of Our Island II (or Our Island I) against a nominal donation, write to us or give us a ring.


To see the album of Elisa Von Brockdorff’s fabulous photos from the launch, visit our Flickr page.


Book Launch: Our Island II: Personal Accounts of Refugees in Malta

There are circumstances you find yourself in that absolutely strip you of all human dignity. It is a painful thing.

When people look at refugees…sometimes they’ve been through so much, just let them be. They don’t want to trouble you. They just want to fit in.

I know the feeling because that’s what I have always wanted, just a place I can say, “Look, I’m home.”

Nicky

Our Island II: Personal Accounts of Refugees in Malta gives space to 12 refugee and migrant stories to speak for themselves. It presents stories reflecting differences in the time spent in Malta, cultural and national background, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, age, education and profession and family composition, here and away.

Our Island II also attempts to span a wide range of emotions and experiences: the anxiety caused by being locked up, surprise at a Maltese woman’s flirtatiousness, peer pressure within one’s own ethnic community, helplessness at being perpetually undocumented, pure joy at being united with family members, stress due to the constant need to ‘integrate’.

So when we said we were going to get married, some people were thinking, “An African marriage? How could it be nice?” But as soon as they arrived at our wedding, they were surprised at how people were, and at how people dressed…

People wore traditional clothes, and just like my boss, they were all dancing! When African music is put on, you not only want to listen, you want to move!

That’s why it was so much fun.

Ousman

12 stories: Nicky, Adil, Farah, Michael, Mary, Sekou, Agnes, Omar, Emad, Dursa, Hana, Ousman. Well, 11 stories and Emad’s poem. As you read through the stories, you will be invited into 12 very different worlds. You will get to know our contributors and be given a glimpse of their lives in Malta. They are indeed very different worlds, yet united by possibly two significant elements: the relationship between Malta and all narrators is based on otherness; and their protagonists are, quite honestly, regular people.

Our Island II will be launched on the 10th May 2019 at the Casino Maltese, Valletta. For more information email: info@aditus.org.mt.




We’re training integration educators…

On Friday evening and Saturday morning, Neil (our Director) delivered legal training to integration educators, engaged by the University of Malta to deliver cultural orientation classes to migrants and refugees.

Following Government’s adoption of Integration=Belonging: Migrant Integration Strategy and Action Plan, the Integration Unit within the Ministry for European Affairs and Equality has been making steady progress towards implementation of the country’s integration agenda.

In particular, free classes in English and Maltese have already started, as part of Stage 1 of a migrant’s integration path. Stage 1 also includes basic cultural and societal orientation, and a record+assessment of qualifications, trade and work experiences.

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Maltese NGOs at the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review’s Pre-Session

On 12 October aditus foundation, Kunsill Nazzjonali ŻgħażagħThe Malta Independent on Sunday editor David Lindsay attended the UPR pre-session on Malta to give their feedback and recommendations on the state of human rights in Malta as they stand.

The UPR pre-sessions are attended by States’ missions to the United Nations, based in Geneva, with a view to gathering information in preparation for the upcoming review of a State’s human rights performance. Malta’s review is set for 14 November 2018…we’ll be following closely!

(Don’t know what the UPR is, or why we think it’s an important human rights process? Read our earlier blog post.)

So, who said what at this pre-session?

aditus foundation

Neil was present as Director of aditus foundation but also as Head of Secretariat of the umbrella organisation Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta (PHROM).

He started his presentation by highlighting the significant progress made by Malta in several areas since the last UPR, such as the adoption of the Integration Policy (2017) as well as amendments made to the immigration detention policy.

Statelessness was an issue discussed in depth by aditus foundation, also in the shadow report presented to the UPR process. In this regard, Neil reiterated concerns expressed in the Statelessness Index, namely:

Neil further noted the challenges faced by refugees and migrants in accessing Europe safely and legally, emphasizing that safe and legal pathways need to be introduced. He also stressed the need for Malta and Italy to stop bickering on Twitter and to find a way of resolving their legal and political disagreements regarding rescue at sea of migrants.

aditus foundation pleaded that Ħal Far Tent Village urgently needs to be replaced with housing that is community-based and equipped with basic material supplies. In relation to immigration detention, Neil noted that some instances of deprivation of liberty need to be aligned with international human rights standards.

Finally, on the migration theme, Neil urged Malta to remove the arbitrary prohibition of civil marriages for undocumented migrants.

Neil then spoke on the rule of law, mentioning examples of institutionalised nepotism, kickbacks and other forms of corruption. Neil finally stressed the importance of establishing a public inquiry looking into the brutal assassination of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

PEN Representative David Lindsay

David Lindsay, Editor of The Malta Independent on Sunday, spoke on behalf of Pen International, Reporters without Borders, IPI (International Press Institute), The Committee for the Protection of Journalists, The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, and Article 19.

He stated that during the last UPR session, no recommendations were made on freedom of speech, yet Malta’s situation degenerated enormously. He underlined how Daphne Caruana Galizia’s brutal assassination on 16 October 2017 has left trailing behind it a climate of fear.

David reminded his listeners that a makeshift memorial set up in her memory has been cleared over 20 times by government officials in the thick of the night.

David reiterated Neil’s recommendation by calling for an international public inquiry that would establish whether her death could or should have been prevented.

David said that PEN welcomed the decriminalisation of defamation under the new Media and Defamation Act adopted in 2018, yet also mentioned serious concerns in relation to this new law, particularly that the burden of proof remains with the defendant, including in cases initiated by senior members of the government.

In addition, libel suits may be passed to heirs. To highlight this, David mentioned how Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family inherited a total of 33 civil libel suits, all instituted by senior public officials against Daphne herself.

Lindsay lamented that 2017 was the year Malta was introduced to Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), as a way to censor and silence journalists and media houses by slapping them with exasperatingly high-cost legal fees. David expressed the fear that these methods are aimed at preventing the media from practicing its right to inform the public about matters of general interest.

David urged the UPR to recommend the prohibition of recognition of foreign defamation judgments, in order to protect Maltese journalists from SLAPP and libel tourism.

He concluded by stressing the importance of having a public inquiry looking into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

Kunsill Nazzjonali Żgħażagħ

The General Secretary of Kunsill Nazzjonali Żgħażagħ, Sean Ellul, tabled the KZN’s UPR recommendations, focusing mainly on sexual and mental health issues. Sean noted that, although Malta does offer free STD and STI  testing, it is quite hard to access these due to a long waiting list of up to several months.

This means that a good part of the population remains untested: over 25% of individuals suffering from HIV are unaware they are HIV positive.

KNZ recommends that a standardised, holistic national policy on sex education is established, that incorporates both formal and non-formal education. Further investment in quality sexual health clinics and services is also needed. Self-testing and the distribution/educational use of contraceptives among youths need to be made easier and simpler.

With regard to mental health, Sean highlighted the situation in Mount Carmel Hospital by referring specifically to the young man who was discovered dead after he had fled the hospital. Sean underlined the need to overhaul this institution, also referring to the need for further public education and awareness-raising.

KNZ commented on the Maltese legal and judicial system, where a survey carried out just after Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination showed that 53% of Maltese citizens lacked trust in the system. In line with aditus’ own earlier recommendation, KNZ recommended the establishment of an independent National Human Rights Institution in conformity with the Paris Principles.


This post is part of a series of posts on the Universal Period Review process. Malta’s review, where the country’s human rights situation will be assessed by other States, is set for 14 November 2018.

Follow our News and Updates to be kept updated on this important United Nations procedure.