Malta Refugee Council statement on World Refugee Day 2023
Every year, World Refugee Day invites us to remember the men, women and children who were forced to flee their homes in search of safety. This year, to mark Malta’s forthcoming launch of its second National Integration Policy and Action Plan, the Malta Refugee Council wishes to urge Malta to develop a clear and inclusive pathway towards refugees being accepted and welcome.
Refugees who have settled here need better guidance on what it takes for them to be truly welcome in Malta. From the moment of their arrival, they are repeatedly told that Malta can never be their home. This harsh message follows them along their paths, where they are constantly subjects of criticism, discrimination and exclusion. After years of life in Malta and despite their best efforts, they remain on-lookers of Malta’s social and cultural life, burdened with the knowledge that Malta will never really be home.
Malta Refugee Council reacts to revisions to policy on access to employment for asylum-seekers
We are extremely concerned about a new policy that is denying people the possibility of working and earning a living. It is clear that this decision will deprive hundreds of people, including families, of the income necessary to secure a minimum level of human dignity and self-reliance. Already vulnerable to labour exploitation, including wages far below the minimum wage, asylum-seekers and failed asylum-seekers will be pushed further into the dark as they will inevitably clutch at any opportunity to secure basics such as shelter, food and water, clothing, services and transport in order to survive.
In May, the Ministry for Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement amended Malta’s approach on how people seeking asylum in Malta, or who sought asylum here and had their applications rejected, may or may not work. The new policy focuses on a list of countries deemed safe by the Minister, whereby nationals of these countries are effectively punished for exercising their fundamental human rights to seek protection from persecution. Asylum-seekers from a country deemed safe will experience forced redundancy for up to nine months before being allowed to work. Persons from such countries whose asylum applications are rejected will only be able to work in Malta under exceptional circumstances.
We are shocked at the lack of sensitivity expressed in the recent statement of the MUMN. Ample research and our own experiences confirm the severe psychological harm caused by detention: it causes desperation and serious harm. These are otherwise healthy men, women and children who are locked up – often without any legal basis – in living conditions best described as awful and undignified. Too often we witness self-harm, suicide attempts and other actions that the Union brushes off as ‘abuses of the system’.
For us, these are not abuses but the extremely worrying effects of a policy that entirely dehumanises people who, very often, are already suffering from trauma and other severe mental health issues. We see such cases on a weekly basis and are deeply saddened that this is the treatment Malta has chosen to offer them.