A sizeable crowd held a silent and solemn march in Valletta in remembrance of Mamadou Kamara, a Malian migrant who died while detention two weeks ago.
Around 500 people marched down Republic Street in Valletta led by the Migrants' Network for Equality calling for a reform in the detention policy system which is the root of all problems related to migration.
As the migrants expressed their sadness at the loss of Kamara, Ali Konace said "this is only the beginning. Let's make this work. We need to work together with the Maltese people and understand eachother."
The silent march was organised following the killing of Mamadou Kamara last week.
The two soldiers accused of his murder were granted bail yesterday. Another person is accused of tampering with evidence in connection with the case.
At the end of the march, as the demonstrators gathered in St George's Square, Ali Konace from the Migrants' Network for Equality repeatedly said "We really miss you, Mamadou Kamara."
Contrary to reports which appeared in the last few days, Konace denied that migrants inside the detention centre it was not true that the migrants at the detention centre had any kind of problem with Kamara.
"On the contrary, the migrants at the detention centre were the first to hold a protest as they refused to eat because they were not getting information about what had happened," he said.
A visibly shaken Konace said "People and friends are still crying for the loss of Kamara."
He explained how Kamara who was affectionately known as Zoto was " a good man who was friends with everyone. He was never a troublemaker."
The Malian added that "only God knows what happened to Kamara, however I believe that some witnesses know what went on."
"We are not here to blame the soldiers or the police or the people at the detention services, we are here to blame the system. The problem is the detention the system," he said.
"Please change the system. Travelling without a document is not our choice. We have to do it. There is no reason to imprison migrants. In fact, prisoners enjoy better conditions than migrants in detention," he added among applause from the people present.
In a stirring address, Andre Callus, from Moviment Graffitti, said that the people at the top had created a system of closed detention centres that was breeding racism and a change in attitude was needed from the highest levels.
"If the system does not change more beatings and more deaths will happen. Beatings occur behind closed doors every week."
He added that condemnation alone is not enough to stop such incidents from repeating themselves. "If more beatings and killings occur, then it is the people at the top who are to blame," he said to the crowd which included a number of MPs and politicians from all three parties.
Callus noted that migration is not a national security issue, however he admitted that big challenges are posed by migration. While appealing to change the system and discourse used, Callus said "A change in the attitude at the highest levels is the only solution to racism."
Osman Dicko from the Migrants' Network for Equality said the that the media should be given free access in the detention centres and invited the authorities to open up the centres in order to "discover the truth about what happened to Kamara."
He added that the press should also publish what really goes on inside the closed detention centres and show the public what detention really is.
Nationalist MPs Beppe Fenech Adami, Karl Gouder, David Agius and Charlo Bonnici, MEP Simon Busuttil and PN officials Frank Psaila and Paula Mifsud Bonnici were also present. They were joined by Labour MP Evarist Bartolo and Alternattiva Demokratika's Arnold Cassola.
Fenech Adami told MaltaToday that the Nationalist Party condemns all acts of violence, including racially motivated violence. He said "we say no to every form of racism" and said that the PN was there to express its solidarity with migrants and anyone who suffers from any kind of discrimination.
Labour MP Evarist Bartolo told MaltaToday that "everyone should be treated humanely, irrespective of skin colour."
He explained that integration does not happen alone and called for serious initiatives to accept diversity. "It is not easy and it is not a one-way traffic issue. Both migrants and Maltese people have to cooperate."
Bartolo added that although integration is complicated "it is possible. The Maltese people are good hearted and I believe that any form of prejudice they might have will fall."
On his part, AD's Arnold Cassola said the detention policy "criminalises migrants and creates a barrier between migrants and the Maltese people."
He added that although he was pleased to see members of both big parties present, "it is a pity that Foreign Affairs Minister Tonio Borg and Opposition leader Joseph Muscat are not here today. While Borg propagates the idea of push backs, Muscat supports the suspension of international obligations."
The organisations taking part in the walk included the Jesuit Refugee Service, Moviment Graffitti, Aditus Foundation, Third World Group, Koperattiva Kummerc Gust, Alternattiva Demokratika Zghazagh, Get Up Stand Up, Integra Foundation and Kopin.