[WATCH] ‘Minsija’ highlights the plight of undocumented migrants in Malta

Despite their contribution to the economy and the country, a large portion of migrants living in Malta still face hurdles when trying to obtaining legal permits to work

Despite their contribution to the economy and the country, a large portion of migrants living in Malta still face hurdles when trying to obtaining legal permits to work.

Minsija, an online series on MaltaToday’s Facebook page, explores the realities of migrants in the Maltese workforce, who despite their contributions, are denied the social security of pensions, and long-term residence permits while still being afflicted by racism

The project was carried out in collaboration with Moviment Graffitti and the MCAST Institute of Creative Arts.

Among the institutional shortcomings mentioned by those interviewed in the online series, nearly all of them mentioned the long waiting times at Identity Malta. “When you go there, there’s a que. So during that time, you have to go as early as maybe 4am or 5am. Because if you don’t go early, by 12 in the afternoon they tell you they are closed,” Doris Doku said.

Doku, 44, arrived in Malta from Ghana. She was a teacher, but nowadays cannot work due to issues with her status. “Now I don’t have any status in Malta, I don’t have any official documents and because of that I’m just living, just caring for my children,” Doku said. “My ability to teach and to care for children is only limited to two children.”

She said she believes the bureaucratic to get documents renewed is designed to discourage migrants from doing so, a sentiment felt by other interviewees. “People have been living here for five, six years. They work every day, they pay the taxes, and what do they get? Nothing,” construction worker Ahmed said. “And then you see what happened to our brother Jaiteh Lamin, no wonder a lot of us are angry.”

Ahmed Abdul Razak, who also works in construction, said the attitude shown by government entities gives the impression that it only wants to use migrants. “The government wants to use us, they think we are nobody,” he said. “so just let’s use them, they are nothing.”

His status is ‘Specific Residence Authorisation’. He said he spent almost seven years without any documents. “We have friends in other countries – Spain, Italy, Germany, and they treat them differently,” he said. “I feel like they are punishing us.”

He was 22 when he arrived in Malta, and today is 40 years old. “I have matured in Malta, I have grown up here, but people still hate us, because government does not tell them the truth about us.”

Abdul is worried his future in Malta is in threatened. “We don’t have anything, not even to go on holiday.”

18-year-old Alex Zewde was born in Sudan, but at the tender age of seven made the crossing to Malta. Despite growing up in Malta, he is yet to be given a permanent residency permit.  He has successfully integrated into Maltese society, speaking the language fluently, attending Maltese schools and practicing sport in Maltese nurseries.

Alex Zewde still fears he might be booted out of the country. “And what am I supposed to do? I won’t see my friends, I stop going to school and no longer practice the sport I love. I am sad because I you don’t know what is going to happen to you.”

He currently practices athletics, but before used to play basketball. He was so good that he had been chosen to play with his age category’s national team squad. But because he has a subsidiary status, he cannot play abroad, and had to be left behind when the squad travelled overseas for a competition. “They had to drop me from the team,” he said. “I am trying to show them that I can contribute to the country and I am trying my best to get my citizenship, because I believe that I can repay Malta for what it has given me.”

Christine Cassar, who coordinated the project between MaltaToday and Moviment Graffitti said the interviews are first-hand evidence of the unsustainable and inhumane conditions migrants continuously face at the hands of Maltese public authorities.

“It is a dire situation that the Maltese government fails to address and continues to deny,” she said.

She said the interviews highlight the systemic failure of the state.

“These interviews focus on families explaining how they lost their status for frivolous and petty reasons, and how they are systemically treated unfairly by Malta’s public authorities, particularly the Ministry for Home Affairs and Identity Malta,” she said.

Cassar said that around a year ago, the migrant community had highlighted its most urgent and basic needs to the Home Affairs Ministry, including the the legal framework regulating asylum and migration in Malta, the reintroduction of the Specific Residence Authorisation (SRA) policy and status, and the way Identity Malta staff and personnel show discrimination against migrants and asylum seekers.

These demands have not been met.