Mental disability to no longer remain a hurdle for Maltese citizenship

The Opposition said it woudl also be supporting the proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act

The amendment means mental disability to no longer remain a hurdle for Maltese citizenship
The amendment means mental disability to no longer remain a hurdle for Maltese citizenship

The Government this evening put forward in parliament an amendment to the Citizenship Act that would correct an anomaly in the law that does not allow individuals that are not “of sound mind” to apply for Maltese citizenship.

The Opposition said it would also be voting in favour of the amendment.

“What we are saying is that we want to allow third-parties, acting on behalf of an applicant - for example those trusted with their care - to submit an application on their behalf,” said the junior minister.

She added that by doing so, another form of discrimination against those living with a disability would be removed.

Farrugia Portelli insisted that the government had an obligation to make the changes, even if they would only be impacting a small number of people.

She recounted how a 3-year-old girl, born to a Russian woman had been left mentally disabled following an accident. The girl in question is today 25-years-old.

Farrugia Portelli said that despite the fact the girl’s mother was a Maltese citizen, her mothers request for her to become a Maltese citizen had to be rejected because of her disability.

“Like any other parent, the mother tried to do what was most practical and sensible, and on 23 May 2017, asked the Civil Court to submit an application on her daughter’s behalf,” said Farrugia Portelli.

She added that the request was rejected because there was no provision in the law that covered the mother’s request.

“It transpires that the law does not allow for exceptions in the case of applicants who are adults but not of sound mind,” said Farrugia Portelli, quoting the court’s sentence.

She said that while the case was an exceptional one, there were other similar cases that would be addressed through this amendment.

Opposition health spokesperson Stephen Spiteri said that while the Opposition agreed with the proposed amendment but pointed out that, despite the fact that the amendment would reduce discrimination against disabled persons, the Government would do well to address the problems at Mount Carmel Hospital .

He stressed that studies had shown that such treatment required the best possible environment, and one that was conducive to improving mental health.

“The government can’t continue to boast about a surplus when it then has a mental health hospital that in it, has hundreds of patients living under roofs that condemned,” he said. 

Spiteri insisted that while the Government was happy to invest, and give money to the new private operators the Gozo General, Karin Grech and St Luke’s hospitals, all while the country’s only mental had been allowed to deteriorate to its current state.

He said that while the law being presented would contribute to equality for people with a disability, one could not ignore the problems that exist in the treatment of mental health problems.

He said the country must ensure that people with a disability were given the necessary tools and opportunities to succeed in life.

Outgoing Nationalist Party deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami similarly said that while the amendment was a positive one, the government could not be taken seriously in its claims it wanted to make life easier for those living with a mental disability, while at the same time proposing the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.

Beppe said he would be expressing the opinion of a great majority of Maltese parents

“I am concerned with this kite-flying started by the government, that we should consider the legalisation of the drugs cannabis for recreational use,” he said.

He pushed back against the “idea” that one had a “right” to consume drugs for recreational purposes.

Parliamentary secretary Anthony Agius Decelis, however pushed back against accusations that the government had forgotten mental health patients, or those living with a disability, stressing that for the first time, the Government had budgeted in excess of €20 million.

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