Malta-born children to be deported after family told their humanitarian protection won't be renewed

As the government is about to repatriate 28 Malians, two children born in Malta to Eritrean married couple could be deported together with their parents next year once temporary protection expires

File photo: A family was told that once their THP-n expires, they will no longer be able to work and live legally in Malta
File photo: A family was told that once their THP-n expires, they will no longer be able to work and live legally in Malta

A married couple who have been in Malta for 11 years are to be deported to Eritrea once their Temporary Humanitarian Protection – N(ew) [THP-n] will expire in August 2017.

The couple who wanted to remain anonymous, fearing further repercussions, told MaltaToday “we cannot understand why they are doing this to us. Why do they want to uproot our family from Malta. This is where our two children, aged eight and seven, were born and where they go to school and where they have friends. Malta is effectively our country. Our children were born in Malta yet they’ll be deported once our temporary protection expires.”

The Christian Eritrean couple came to Malta in 2005, when they got married and had two daughters, yet they have been informed that once their THP-n will expire they will no longer be able to work and live legally in Malta.

As they were refused refugee status and now will lose their THP-n, the couple fear that once they cannot work legally they will not be able to lead a normal life.

“We both work full-time jobs, we both pay our taxes and we do not take one cent in social benefits,” the couple said.

“Our life is in Malta and we do not know what will happen to us if our work permit is revoked. How will we pay our rent? How will we pay the bills? How will we provide for our children?”

This week, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that people whose THP-n expires should be deported because they are in Malta illegally, even if they had been in Malta for a long time.

Speaking on Saviour Balzan’s programme Xtra on TVM, Muscat said “We would have no credibility with the EU if, after we have been insisting so much on the country not being able to take in immigrants, we fail to repatriate immigrants who have been found to be here illegally.”

But the apprehensive Eritrean couple are still stunned by the prospect of being deported and said “we are afraid of what will happen to us. We cannot escape or go to another European country. We simply want to lead a normal life here.”

Joseph Muscat: No credibility with the EU if we fail to repatriate immigrants found to be here illegally
Joseph Muscat: No credibility with the EU if we fail to repatriate immigrants found to be here illegally

This month the home affairs ministry announced that THP-n will no longer be issued by the Office of the Refugee Commissioner while current holders will be able to renew their certificates, provided that all current eligibility criteria are met.

Introduced in 2010, THP-n was described by the former Refugee Commissioner, Mario Guido Friggieri, as “an ex gratia type of protection”. THP-n did not grant failed asylum seekers a legal title and certificates were issued on the Commissioner’s discretion.

“Our refugee claim was rejected and we were then given temporary protection, but we have now been told that it will not be renewed once it expires next year. This means that we will no longer have a work permit and we were told that once an agreement is in place with Eritrea, we will be deported.”

The couple live in central Malta and pay €600 a month in rent and although their children were born at Mater Dei Hospital, the children are officially registered as Eritreans.

Maltese law stipulates that a person born in Malta only acquires Maltese citizenship at birth if a parent of that person is either a Maltese citizen or born in Malta.

“We would like to become Maltese but we know it’s difficult. Yet, after 11 years and after settling in Malta, we want to live a normal life, at least with temporary protection. We just want to work and continue living regularly,” the Eritrean couple said.

Eritrea continues to come under fire for its poor human rights record and its national service programme, which forces over-18s to spend most of their lives in military service or working for the government.

Thousands of people are currently held incommunicado in arbitrary detention for questioning government policies, for their work as journalists, for practising a religion not recognised by the state, or for evading national service conscription.

Human rights groups say that because many Eritreans leave the country illegally, or without government consent, they can face imprisonment and harassment upon their return.


Policy change will make hundreds ‘destitute’

Two weeks ago, human rights NGOs said the removal of THP-n will render hundreds of men, women and children destitute and this constitutes a regression of fundamental human rights.

The human rights advocates reiterated their appeal that migrants – who are by the state’s own admission non-returnable through no fault of their own – be offered the possibility to regularise their status in Malta. This would acknowledge their contributions, securing a dignified life and supporting various economic sectors.

“All persons who so far have been enjoying THP-n, a form of protection that has enabled them to live in security and relative peace of mind, will have their rights stripped off them,” the NGOs said.

“The many years they spent working in Malta as employees or employers, forming relationships, paying their fiscal contributions, renting homes and in many cases supporting entire communities in their countries of origin, will suddenly be erased.”

The scheme announced by the Ministry for Home Affairs will require hundreds of men, women and children “to comply with requirements the ministry knows they are unable to meet, including procurement of identification documentation and the labour market test”.

The NGOs said that the ministry knew too well that for many, the requirements were simply impossible to fulfill, as several countries of origin refuse or are unable to provide these documents.


16 arrested Malians in Malta since 2011

Half of the 28 failed asylum seekers still detained at the Safi detention centre and awaiting their repatriation next month have been in Malta for more than five years,

A home affairs ministry spokesperson told MaltaToday that 16 of the arrested Malians – all male – arrived in Malta between 2007 and 2011. The other 12 arrived between 2012 and 2015, with six of them having been in Malta for a year.

Their age varies between 20 and 40 years, the spokesperson added.

Asked whether Mali is considered as a safe country of origin, the spokesperson said “security concerns relating to Mali are limited to the country’s northern region,” adding that the government is acting within its rights and obligations.

This month, the UN refugee agency said that in October more than 2,000 men, women and children from northern Mali sought refuge in Mauritania from ongoing banditry and interethnic violence.

More than 135,000 Malians who have fled the conflict in their country live in exile, mainly in Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mauritania, where Mbera camp continues to be home to more than 42,000 men, women and children.

UNHCR said the conflict is not contained in the northern part of the country, but frequent security incidents are reported in central Mali which continue to trigger sporadic forced displacement in the region, both internally in Mali and into the other neighbouring countries. Pointing out that Malta’s asylum system has an independent appeals stage, the ministry spokesperson said  “individual requests for asylum are assessed, due consideration is given not only to the general situation in the country, but also in his or her region of origin. In practice this means that should the situation be unstable or dangerous in a particular territory or region, then only persons hailing from that region would be considered for international protection.”

The ministry said that the 28 Malians detained in Safi have had the opportunity to go through Malta’s asylum system “yet they have been found not to be deserving of international protection.

“This is because these people would not be subject to persecution upon return, nor is the situation in their country of origin such as to pose a risk of serious harm or loss of life,” the spokesperson added.