Last week I was going through the news and reading about the current COVID-19 pandemic. I came across a Times Of Malta article ‘Migrants ‘more vulnerable’ to COVID-19 impact’. In this article the Director of Integra, Maria Pisani,
Imagine losing everything on your way to Europe and suddenly facing a new crisis in your new home: you’ve just lost your job, have no internet to stay updated about the novel corona-virus and no friends or family to support you with food or medicine. This is the situation in which some migrants have suddenly found themselves.Dr. Maria Pisani, Integra Foundation
After reading this article I decided to sit down with our Legal Officer, Claire Delom, a French human rights lawyer with expertise in refugee law. I also spoke with Sarah Giusti, Social Worker at The Jesuit Refugee Service: “JRS in Malta seeks to accompany, serve and defend the rights of asylum seekers and forcibly displaced persons who arrive in Malta”.
I interviewed them regarding the current situation affecting local migrants and refugees.
After years of treating asylum and migration in crisis mode, we believe the proposed Pact on Asylum and Migration is an opportunity for the EU and its Member States to change direction. It is an opportunity to develop a rational and rights-based asylum and migration policy. Recent cooperation among Member States signals the possibility of a fresh start, which should build on the lessons of the recently attempted and largely failed reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). However, there is a risk that the Pact may include or prepare the groundwork for damaging legislative proposals, in particular what has been termed the “border instrument”.
No more old wine in new bottles
Some Member States continue to promote the idea of a mandatory border procedure in non-papers and other informal contributions. Extrapolating from these documents and debates, the potential border instrument would combine the worst and most controversial elements of the 2016 CEAS reform package, pulling together parts of the Asylum Procedures Regulation, Dublin IV and recast Return Directive. The procedure would be applied to all persons who arrive in the EU to seek protection and would lead to a massive expansion of detention centres at the borders.
We are extremely excited to launch a new initiative that will see us supporting refugee-led organisations. Together with partners in Malta, Cyprus, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and Italy we will be looking at the challenges faced by refugee-led groups in becoming active advocates for refugee rights. On the basis of our research and consultations we will then design a training kit intended to strengthen their capacity to advocate at the national and EU levels.
Refugee-led community organisations (RCOs) play a crucial role within society and ample research has highlighted this. RCOs provide a bridge support to newly-arrived refugees. They facilitate swifter integration by offering basic information on procedures and daily life, provide language and cultural orientation training, support refugees wishing to contribute to lost societies and, generally, assist in the normalisation process of making a host community become home.
On 12 November, I was in Brussels to attend the 9th EASO Consultative Forum Plenary Meeting. This meeting is a gathering of NGO representatives from all Europe, stakeholders from Member States, European Union officials (EASO and European Commission) and the United Nations (UNHCR).
This year’s Forum was focused on the initial steps in the asylum procedure and the aim was to exchange knowledge from different types of stakeholders.
We heard different panel discussions from experts stressing key considerations, with the opportunity to present questions on issues we’re all facing in our work. Civil society, Member States and European institutions officials had a chance to express their views and hear each other.
Final recommendations from the different workshops focused on outreach and information, registration, and channelling of applicants with special needs.
This gathering is a great opportunity for everyone to learn more, exchange and get inspired in order to do a more appropriate and fairer work. I sincerely thank EASO for supporting my participation at this meeting!
the occasion of the meeting of the 23 September between representatives of
Malta, Italy, Germany, France, Finland and the European Commission the
strongly urge the meeting participants to bring to an end a distribution of
responsibilities that results in human suffering, injustice and violations of
international and European law.
permanent system of disembarkation and relocation of asylum-seekers rescued in
the Mediterranean is absolutely necessary. The current ad hoc system whereby
relocation is negotiated on a ship-by-ship basis is neither humane nor sustainable. Furthermore, it is imperative
that rescued asylum-seekers are always treated in a manner that fully respects
their dignity and fundamental rights. Ultimately, the present scenario risks draining
cooperating Member States of their willingness to support Italy and Malta.
welcome the active involvement of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in
these relocation exercises, reiterating the need for such exercises to be
treated as European initiatives and not as bilateral political negotiations amongst
Member States outside the scope of legal and policy scrutiny. Relocating
asylum-seekers should be based on the principles enshrined in Europe’s asylum
norms, including: registration and protection as asylum-seekers, appropriate provision
of information, restoration of family ties, identification of and support to
We are particularly concerned at Malta’s treatment of rescued persons in the Initial Reception Centre and in Safi Detention Centre. We have already expressed our concerns regarding the lawfulness of the detention of those who have been detained on medical grounds for weeks on end. Beyond this, both centres are over-crowded and living conditions are abysmal.
Whilst we fully appreciate Malta’s challenges in receiving relatively large numbers of asylum-seekers in a short time, we cannot endorse an approach that leaves people locked up for weeks, without a valid reason at law, and treats them with such disregard for their humanity.
It is simply unacceptable that this approach is tolerated by a European Union built on values of solidarity, humanity and dignity.
view of the above, we strongly urge the Member State participants to seek to
establish a permanent relocation mechanism for asylum-seekers rescued in the
- Provides effective solidarity with Italy and Malta by ensuring the swift transfer of asylum-seekers and by providing support – including financial – towards the urgent improvement of reception conditions;
- Terminates at once the approach whereby rescued persons are only allowed to be disembarked once their relocation is secured;
- Ensure that all persons are provided with information, in a manner they understand, about their futures from the moment of their arrival and throughout the relocation procedure;
- Guarantees that, following disembarkation, all persons are treated humanely and with respect for their dignity and fundamental human rights;
- Immediately strengthens the capacity of open reception centres, both in terms of physical space and in terms of the human resources necessary to provide all asylum-seekers with the support they need to rebuild their lives.
- African Media Association
- Blue Door English
Refugee Service (Malta)
- Malta Emigrants’ Commission
Women Association (Malta)
- Moviment Graffitti
- Office of the Dean, Faculty of Education
- SOS Malta
- Syrian Solidarity in Malta