Migrants’ political participation ‘not a priority’ says civil liberties minister

“Other pressing issues” to address in improving the integration of migrants in the country, says minister Helena Dalli

Malta is one of 11 EU countries which do not provide Third Country Nationals with any electoral rights. Photo: Ray Attard
Malta is one of 11 EU countries which do not provide Third Country Nationals with any electoral rights. Photo: Ray Attard

Helena Dalli, Minister for Social Dialogue and Civil Liberties, has reacted to a proposal by human rights NGO Aditus to give voting rights to migrants during local elections, by saying that the political participation of migrants was “not a priority”, there being “other pressing issues” with regard to improving the integration of migrants in the country.

She was commenting on the document issued last week by Aditus which, among other recommendations, proposed that third-country nationals (TCNs) residing in Malta be provided with better opportunities for political participation.

Malta is one of 11 EU countries which do not provide TCNs with any electoral rights. Recommendations outlined in the report include allowing TCNs to vote and stand in local elections and the removal of any obstacles to their civic and political participation.

“The report presented by Aditus puts forward various recommendations, where the point about political participation at local level was only one of them,” Dalli told MaltaToday. “We will review the recommendations and discuss which suggestions could be taken on board in a forthcoming integration strategy, taking into account the current situation and the immediate needs of both migrants and the Maltese population.

“Specifically, with regard to the possibility of opening the right to vote to third-country nationals, I do not believe that it is a current priority, as there are other pressing issues that need to be dealt with first,” she said. “In any case, we will be meeting Aditus for an exchange on the various recommendations put forward and their vision of integration in Malta.”

Indeed, Dalli admitted that there was a need to address means of improving the integration of TCNs in Maltese society, with a lack of awareness in what the rights and obligations of migrants are often leading to misunderstandings between the Maltese and TCNs.

“Malta is currently working towards an Integration Strategy to meet this need,” she said. “Right now, there is no centralised information for migrants on their rights and obligations while in Malta. As a result, frustrations and misunderstandings arise both in the migrant community and the Maltese population.

“Our ministry engages with human rights NGOs to learn more about the needs of migrant communities,” Dalli said. “We also work with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to develop information material for migrants, as well as a website containing information about rights and obligations that will be launched next week. In our view this represents an important step towards better integration.”

Dalli’s comments somewhat echo those of President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca who on Monday said that while it was important to help migrants integrate in Maltese society, allowing them to vote in local elections would be “jumping the gun” and implementing such a reform would “stir more controversy than do good.”

On her part, the Opposition’s spokesperson for civil liberties, Claudette Buttigieg said that she, as well as the Nationalist Party as a whole, endorsed the position taken by the President on the matter.

“On this issue, the President of the Republic has spoken and we endorse her position,” Buttigieg’s curt reply to MaltaToday read.