Malta urged to extend family reunification to beneficiaries of protection

On World Refugee Day, human rights NGOs urge Malta to consider the situation of family members reuniting in this country, by securing their legal status and documentation that guarantee real protection

Human rights NGOs called on the government to explore the possibility of extending family reunification to beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, thereby discouraging family members to avoid resorting to dangerous and illegal routes to joining their loves ones.

Malta was also urged to consider the situation of family members reuniting in this country, by securing their legal status and documentation that guarantee real protection.

Marking World Refugee Day, the NGOs reminded that as refugees flee their homes, escaping persecution or war, they are often forced to leave behind their husbands, wives, children, parents or loved ones.

The statement was issued by 
aditus foundation, Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Integration Foundation, JRS Malta, KOPIN, Organisation for Friendship in Diversity, People for Change Foundation, UNHCR Malta.

Along the route, searching for safety, refugee families face severe difficulties in ensuring shelter and basic livelihood, particularly for young children and other vulnerable persons.

Very often, families are torn apart following flight, dispersed in refugee camps, cities or other transit points. Some persons are simply unable to continue the escape, succumbing to armed groups, illness, lack of nutrition, severe climatic conditions.

Family members reuniting with their loved ones in a country offering refuge struggle to be recognized as persons also requiring protection and safety.

“We recall the impact of the refugee plight on those family members left behind, those dispersed along the way and those eventually reuniting in safety. In this regard we acknowledge that family is the cornerstone of society, a value that is highly cherished and protected in Malta. We therefore express our solidarity with all those refugees whose family experiences are reduced to hurried calls, who are lamenting the loss of their loved ones, or who are striving to start a new life with their families, also here in Malta.”

Today there are more people displaced by conflict than at any time since the Second World War. Around the world, almost 60 million have been displaced by conflict and persecution. Nearly 20 million of them are refugees, and more than half are children. Their numbers are growing and accelerating, every single day, on every continent. In 2014, an average of 42,500 people became refugees, asylum-seekers or internally displaced persons, every single day – that is four times more than just four years ago.

Local NGOs and the UNHCR this year have teamed up with Valletta Film Festival and the Film Grain Foundation to commemorate World Refugee Day in Malta also through the medium of film. The powerful documentary ‘Born in Gaza’ will screen in Valletta on 20, 21 and 23 June (St James Cavalier and the Embassy Complex).

“We are honored to have teamed up with UNHCR and the local human rights NGOs to commemorate World Refugee Day. Film Grain Foundation strongly believes in the power of Cinema to raise awareness about the world's many realities. Hernan Zin's film Born in Gaza is gripping and necessary reminder of one of the main causes for forced migration: War, told by the uncorrupted voices of Palestinian children,” Filmgrain Foundation said.

In a separate statement, the Nationalist Party said Malta could not ignore the reality that the Mediterranean had now become a cemetery, claiming the lives of thousands who succumbed to the perilous journey.

PN spokesperson for immigration Francis Zammit Dimech said that Malta always offered its help and showed its genuine solidarity to those in need. Praising the AFM, police force, healthcare workers and NGOs for their efforts, Zammit Dimech said their work was a clear manifestation of solidarity in action.

“It is hoped that the EU leaders summit will translate into concrete action where each and every member state realises that the migration crisis is not just Malta’s, Italy’s or Greece’s problem. There is no solidarity without co-responsibility,” he said.

UNHCR High Commissioner Antonio Guterres criticised those who have closed their eyes before this unfolding tragedy.

“Some of the countries most able to help are shutting their gates to people seeking asylum. Borders are closing, pushbacks are increasing, and hostility is rising. Avenues for legitimate escape are fading away. And humanitarian organizations like mine run on shoestring budgets, unable to meet the spiralling needs of such a massive population of victims,” Guterres said.

“We have reached a moment of truth. World stability is falling apart leaving a wake of displacement on an unprecedented scale. Global powers have become either passive observers or distant players in the conflicts driving so many innocent civilians from their homes.”

Guterres said that, in this world at war, where power relations are unclear, and unpredictability and impunity have become the name of the game, it is now urgent for all those with leverage over the parties to these conflicts to put aside their differences and come together to create the conditions for ending the bloodshed.

“But in the meantime, the world must either shoulder collectively the burden of helping the victims of war, or risk standing by as less wealthy countries and communities – which host 86 per cent of the world's refugees – become overwhelmed and unstable,” he said.

“For me, the choice is clear: either allow the cancer of forced displacement to spread untreated, or manage the crisis together. We have the solutions and the expertise. It won’t be easy or cheap, but it will be worth it. History has shown that doing the right thing for victims of war and persecution engenders goodwill and prosperity for generations. And it fosters stability in the long run.

“The world needs to renew its commitment now to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its principles that made us strong. To offer safe harbour, both in our own countries and in the epicentres of the crises, and to help refugees restore their lives. We must not fail.”

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