[WATCH] African workers protest lack of rights, discrimination

African community leads peaceful protest to push for change in system regulating migrant workers

African workers protest lack of rights, discrimination

The African community in Malta is leading a peaceful protest in Valletta to raise awareness about migrants’ main problems in Malta when it comes to documentation and discrimination.

Some 100 people gathered for the protest, with a couple of tourists even joining in at different points throughout the march. Protestors held banners with slogans such as “We are slaves to the economics of Malta”, “Human rights are inherent” and “Black lives matter” among others, and chanted “Change the system” as they walked around the streets of Valetta.

The protest started opposite the Phoenicia hotel at around 10.00 am, and finished with statements from a number of the protestors at Castille square, at around 11.40 am. The march made a few brief stops at St. George’s square and Europa house among others.

“We are all grateful that Malta gave us sanctuary after our long and dangerous journeys. However we ask the parliament to address the main problems we have here. In over 12 years we believe that less than 5% of African asylum seekers were granted refugee status,” project leader Ahmed Nuur Ibrahim said.

Speaking to MaltaToday minutes before the protest, Ibrahim said that many of those at the protest had been living in the country for some 15 years, but that their claims to asylum had been rejected.

“We are not here to show anyone disrespect and we would like to emphasize that this is a peaceful protest, but we hope that the government will recognize our efforts in the community,” Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim explained that the majority of migrants who have subsidiary protection status pay social security payments and taxes, but cannot access the same benefits as other working citizens.

 “In particular they are not accumulating any pension rights, which is creating a problem for the future,” Ibrahim said.

Asylum seekers who have had their claims rejected once or twice are permitted to remain in Malta but are not even permitted to register for work with ETC.

“Some have been living in Malta for more than ten years, in poverty and in limbo, and unable to return to move to a country where they can have an opportunity to work and contribute to the economy of their host country.”

Ibrahim added that the fact that Malta was an island, made it particularly difficult for African migrants, given that they could not travel to other European countries.

“We are paying taxes like all other citizens, yet we do not get the same treatment,” he said, stressing that the African community was only asking for rights equal to other members of the community.

“I have not seen one of my daughters for nine years,” Solomon Abebe told the newsroom.

Abebe explained that he had made it to Malta, along with his wife from Ethiopia in 2008, but that his application for asylum had been rejected multiple times.

“I have since been working at the Mater Dei hospital Oncology Centre, and we’ve also had a daughter here,” he said, explaining his efforts to build a new life.

Kamara Karea echoed these woes, and told the newsroom that he had arrived in Malta in 2008, and that as a result he had not been able to see his family from that time. Questioning why he was being kept in the country for such a long time, Karea added that many had grown tired of waiting.

“Because we don’t have an ID card, we cannot even have bank accounts,” Kaba Sidibe said, explaining that the yellow police permit issued every three months was not enough for banks.

“I am employed and I get paid by cheque, but I do not know where I can go to get my money,” he said, stressing that he had come to Malta from the Ivory coast in 2008.

Rueben Aferi, who came to Malta from Ivory Coast nine years ago, said that he had been a law-abiding citizen, paying taxes and National Insurance ever since he started working, but that he hoped he could obtain documentation and recognition.

“There are good people and bad people in every group in society,” he said, emphasizing the need for integration.

Other protestors explained that they had felt it was particularly discriminatory that they paid their taxes and then couldn’t make use of national health care systems.

“I recently got injured at my place of work, but I was not given medical assistance,” Sudanese Fai Sal said.

Throughout the protest, a number of migrants said they had felt that having decent human rights was an essential step in achieving better integration with the Maltese community. They explained that they were feeling stuck in a country that didn’t want to accept them, but that they had no alternative.

Ibrahim added that Africans in Malta suffer from daily discrimination in Malta because of their skin colour and religion.

“We regularly receive verbal abuse, and receive hate speech from the minority of Maltese people who feel threatened by our presence, and who take advantage of us whether by openly overcharging us in shops, or paying us less than the legal minimum wage. Unfortunately the mass migration of non-Africans into Europe over the last few months has created more resentment towards all migrants.”

Describing discrimination as a “daily struggle”, Ibrahim emphasized that the community hoped that people would understand their desire to be apart of the community.

One of the banners held during the protest stressed the beauty of integration and diversity in the community. The point was echoed by Ibrahim who also expressed the hope that the government would allow migrants to lend their strengths and skills to the country’s economy.