Making migrants sleep overnight to get e-residence ‘unacceptable’ – Opposition MP

Shadow home affairs minister Beppe Fenech Adami says it is incumbent upon government to have proper human resources at citizenship and expatriates department

A migrant sleeps outside Evans Building to make sure he gets in at the identity card office once it opens on Friday morning.
A migrant sleeps outside Evans Building to make sure he gets in at the identity card office once it opens on Friday morning.

The shadow home affairs minister, Beppe Fenech Adami, has called for better human resources to deal with applications for the renewal of e-residence cards for non-EU nationals like migrants who are seeking a work permit.

Fenech Adami was reacting to MaltaToday's exposé of migrants seeking renewal of their e-residence cards so that they can renew their work permits. The citizenship and expatriates department only sees a limited number of migrants on a Friday, forcing them to wait outside as early as Thursday night, braving the cold weather outside the office, so that they can be first in line on Friday morning to access the service.

Fenech Adami said the situation was totally unacceptable.

"It is totally unacceptable that immigrants applying for the e residence card have to go through the ordeal described in the article. Government is to ensure that the proper infrastructure, set-up and human resources are in place to ensure that unnecessary hardship no longer persists."


[WATCH] Migrants sleep out at night to apply for their e-residence card

Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela, who recently took up his new post as minister, also said that the situation was "inhumane" for migrants, and said that his ministry was actively seeking a solution to the workload.

In March 2014, Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi had told the House in a PQ of the disorganisation at the citizenship and expatriates department at the Evans Building, with queues lasting five entire hours. Then home affairs minister Manuel Mallia had told the House that the disorganisation stemmed from the previous administration, when in January 2013 no new human resources were passed on to the citizenship department when it started issuing e-residence and identity cards to foreign residents.

Mallia had said that the ministry had provided modern offices for the department, engaged new personnel, and was considering hiving off certain services outside the department so that it can be more efficient and reduce queues.

Once migrants qualify for protection the first thing they have to do is to apply for an e-residence card. Without it they cannot access public services such as benefits, work permits, or even open a bank account.

But migrants are only being granted access to the service on Friday morning.

“I have to renew my ID card and I only have one day to do that, which is Friday, and there are a lot of people here. Without it, you cannot re- new your working permit," Stephen Morphy, a Liberian migrant who has been in Malta since 2003, told MaltaToday.

“I’m working here paying taxes, to go to work. It is not fair. Once we are working, paying taxes, we should be able to renew our document free and fair like the others. I have come and sleep in this weather just to be able to work to support my family."

Morphy stands out as a living example of the failure of a system that is actually pushing him into illegality: braving the cold January night trying to secure a legal status so that he can continue working, but instead he is treated as a second-class citizen by having just one day in which he can have his e-residence card renewed.

Carmelo Abela, has dubbed the situation “inhumane” after having assessed the matter personally.

“The decision to allow migrants to apply on a particular day of the week was taken long before Identity Malta was established. In 2014 Identity Malta organised an outreach programme to accept residence applications from the premises of the Refugee Commission and the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS). Since then, the number of migrants applying at AWAS decreased significantly and eventually the service stopped being offered from their office. The service offered from the Refugee Commission is still ongoing,” he said.

“Lately, for a number of reasons, there was an increase in the applications at the Department for Citizenship and Expatriate Affairs in Valletta,” Abela said, since expired documents were all being issued on the same date and therefore had to be renewed on the same date.

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