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.
NGO reaction to the revisions to the Specific Residence Authorisation policy
We are extremely disappointed to read the revisions made by the Government to the 2018 Specific Residence Authorisation policy. Instead of “reducing social exclusion among migrant communities and recognising the efforts of those migrants who are actively contributing to our society” the revisions will destroy the hard-earned integration efforts of hundreds of migrants. The revised policy will result in people in Malta remaining undocumented and being denied access to the most basic rights. This will exacerbate the pain of so many men, women and children.
Two years ago, we welcomed the policy on Specific Residence Authorisation (SRA) as a unique opportunity to integrate migrants who have lived and worked in Malta for many years, granting them stability and security. We had commented “that the SRA policy is a clear acknowledgement by the relevant authorities of the personal, social, financial and other contributions made by so many migrants in Malta. In doing so, Malta is taking a bold step towards fostering a truly inclusive society.”
Yesterday we launched the research report Struggling to Survive: An investigation into the Risk of Poverty among Asylum-Seekers in Malta. The report is a joint initiative with JRS Malta, and based on data collected from over 80 interviews with refugees and other migrants.
Our findings are quite staggering, indicating that 80% of refugees in Malta are living in poverty. Contributing factors include difficulties find stable and regular employment, low wages, high rent prices, insufficiency of social welfare support, language barriers, and limited childcare possibilities. The situation of refugee women is of particular concern.
Main recommendations include:
- use the Minimum Essential Budgets concept as a guiding benchmark;
- increase statutory minimum wage;
- strengthen social security benefits;
- broaden the scope of employment support services, with a particular focus on refugee women;
- regulate temporary employment;
- implement a national integration programme;
- prioritise individual need over status, when determining social welfare support eligibility;
- engage in further research into the theme.
The report, part of the broader Project Integrated, was published with the support of UNHCR and the Malta Community Chest fund.
It may be downloaded here (.pdf).