Refugees should be at the heart of asylum policies – NGOs

Political parties shun World Refugee Day as PR machines go silent

World Refugee Day was marked yesterday by images beamed around the world of Hollywood star Angelina Jolie clutching the bars behind which asylum seekers in Lyster barracks were staying.

But apart from a week-long schedule of activities and performances by refugees, refugee-workers and NGOs, there was silence from the political parties who are usually busy issuing daily statements on anything from pedestrianisation to public finances.

Yesterday human rights NGO Aditus and the Jesuit Refugee Service called on the Maltese authorities to put refugees “at the heart” of asylum policies.

“We’re urging them to undertake a comprehensive consultation process with a view to bringing Malta’s asylum policies and practices in line with international and European human rights standards,” said Aditus’s chairperson Dr Neil Falzon.

Discussions at a seminar organised by Aditus and JRS yesterday focused on detention, reception standards particularly for vulnerable persons and integration, three themes identified as the most important areas requiring immediate and long-lasting action by the Maltese authorities and the European Union institutions and Member States.

“Whilst the participating organisations acknowledged the challenges faced by the Maltese authorities in receiving asylum-seekers, a clear concern expressed is that policy decisions are too often based on considerations other than the protection needs and lawful rights of asylum-seekers and refugees,” JRS director Fr Joseph Cassar said.

Human Rights Watch yesterday also called for human rights to be placed at the heart of EU migration and asylum policy. The international human rights watchdog upheaval in North Africa had brought thousands of migrants and asylum seekers to European shores, and led to growing numbers of migrant deaths at sea.

But efforts to reform common asylum rules and enhance solidarity within the EU remain largely stalled, while an emphasis on border enforcement has come at the expense of protecting migrants' rights and access to asylum.

“The EU talks a lot these days about promoting its values in the Middle East and North Africa,” said Judith Sunderland, senior Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch. “But when it comes to migrants and asylum seekers, those values are all too often thrown out the window.”

HRW said the EU falls behind on reforming the Dublin regulation which requires asylum claimsto be heard in the first EU state a migrant reaches – placing a disproportionate burden on states at the EU’s external borders, like Malta, Italy and particularly Greece, which has a broken asylum system.

HRW also said Greece was experiencing a continued asylum crisis, while insufficient efforts to prevent deaths at sea of boat migrants fleeing Libya had resulted in 1,500 deaths. It also criticised the limited resettlement by EU countries of refugees from North Africa, while Egypt and Tunisia continue to host hundreds of thousands.

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By virtue of your argument Ms Louise Vella: who elected you to speak ALWAYS against anything remotely connected to asylum seekers? NGOs have the very same right you enjoy to speak up their mind and express the ideals they believe in! If you don't happen to like this.... then why not promote an amendment to the freedom of speech clauses of Human Rights? Then, again that's a bit dangerous isn't it?!!
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First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
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NGOs can say what they like. They are not elected. They represent a few individuals with a single obsession. They do not pay for the good things they preach. They are far away from the concerns of the common people and can be ignored. Who elected Neil Falzon chairperson ofAditus? Who elected Joseph Cassar director of the Jesuit Refugee Service? Why should refugees be at the heart of asylum policies? The interests of Malta and of the common people of these islands should be at the heart of ALL Maltese policies. If in doubt about refugees and asylum policies, let's have a referendum.
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At least we don't treat immigrants like the recent beatified Pius IX who used to call Jews dogs. I wonder how many illegal immigrants are finding refuge in the Vatican.....its easy to do the talking but....
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How come no talks about burden sharing not by the EU alone but South American countries, Singapore, Russia, Japan, China. Today, those are the countries that are doing very well economically. Why does it always has to be the US, EU and Malta. How about Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc. Why not place people in those countries. Malta is simply too much for one more migrant or refugee. And I would rather help a helpless African woman who sees so much suffering than these able man who should be fighting in their countries as the North African men are doing to gain democracy.
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The NGOs must realize that a country the size of Malta is limited in what it can do. ANd at the end, the people of the country - which elect it's officials, is ultimately responsible for the decision making process. It's not the NGOs responsibility to make decision, it's our politicians and the politicians decisions must reflects the feelings of the maltese nation, because it's the citizens of Malta who elect or throw out those who don't act in the interest of the Maltese nation.