New integration programme is not enough to secure migrants, NGOs say

’People's lives cannot be reduced to whispers during coffee breaks, or something the Ministry decides on a daily basis’ 

JRS lawyer Katrine Camilleri addresses reporters.
JRS lawyer Katrine Camilleri addresses reporters.
 Antoine Mifsud, Sarjok Cham and Neil Falzon of aditus Foundation
Antoine Mifsud, Sarjok Cham and Neil Falzon of aditus Foundation

The integration programme launched yesterday, while positive, is not enough to provide stability to migrants, particularly those who have not been granted refugee status, Katrine Camilleri, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) said. 

JRS, Integra Foundation, and the aditus foundation have teamed up to launch a campaign which calls for a “legal pathway to regularisation” for rejected asylum seekers. 

The campaign titled ‘This is Home’ was launched today due to concerns surrounding migrants who have not been granted asylum in the country, thereby leaving them in ‘limbo’ and vulnerable to poverty and exploitation. 

Camilleri said that rejected asylum seekers are an already-existing group in Malta, with some of them having lived in the country for the past 15 years. 

Authorities are aware of these migrants and tolerate them, she said, adding that [the migrants] contribute to Maltese society through their work and by paying taxes, but also by being “our friends and neighbours.” 

But they are finding it difficult to have access to even the “most basic services, and to live with dignity.”

“A system which allows people to move towards a more permanent status is required,” she said, explaining that this system should also recognise all efforts towards integration, such as learning the language. 

“Malta is their home, and they are part of our community.”

However, Camilleri said that the Temporary Humanitarian Protection (THPN) – a form of status which attempts to handle the problem of rejected asylum seekers who cannot be returned back to their home country –  is not enough to provide security to migrants and allow them to live with dignity. 

THPN status, she said, is not regulated by law, the procedure is unclear, there is no possibility of appeal, and it is not necessarily extended to family members of those who are granted it.

The NGOs also criticised the lack of clarity when it comes to the precise criteria for eligibility for THPN. “People's lives cannot be reduced to whispers during a coffee break, or something the Ministry decides on a daily basis,” Neil Falzon of aditus foundation said. 

The campaign called for a system in which people can live in security, through a legal pathway process which is established by law. “The procedure needs to be fair, impartial, and independent.”

This status is lacking because it is temporary in nature, Camilleri said. It needs to be renewed every year, and the criteria is linked to employment. “Some rejected asylum seekers are not working because they are studying instead, while others are raising children.”

Apart from being only a short-term solution, THPN is not available to a large number of people. Those holding such a status are also excluded from being able to apply for long-term residency even if they otherwise qualify. 

The campaign was backed by interviews with people with THPN and rejected asylum seekers; 82 males and 10 females. 

While presenting the results, researcher Kristina Zammit, said that persons without protection find it very hard to bring their families or even visit their family back home.

Research findings

The vast majority of people interview were men, reflecting the migrant population demographic. 23 of the men were in Malta with their family, while 65 of them were in Malta alone. 

87% of respondents were gainfully employed despite all obstacles, and many of them emphasised the importance of classes and other assistance provided by NGOs. They also said that learning both English and Maltese has greatly helped them to integrate, Zammit said. 

44 attended educational classes in Malta. 

41 of 81 of the respondents said that they have been renting on their own for about 5-10 years. 

23 of the respondents were children, and although the majority of them were born in Malta, their future is unclear. 

“Having a legal status would give me renewed hope. I have never been dependant on the state and only contributed to society,” one of the interviewees said.

Temporary Humanitarian Protection New is a status which came into effect in 2010 in an attempt to deal with migrants who have not been granted asylum status but who, due to a lack of diplomatic ties or other reasons beyond their control, could not be returned to their country of origin.

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