Overpopulated Malta like ‘Barcelona, Venice, Pozzallo and Singapore’ cocktail, says minister

‘We need to learn how to live together… in small overcrowded places, we do not remain very human’, says education minister Evarist Bartolo

“When there are humans living in a small overcrowded place, we do not remain very human”
“When there are humans living in a small overcrowded place, we do not remain very human”

Malta has turned into a cocktail of metropolises and border towns like Barcelona, Venice, Pozzallo and Singapore, “roiling in a pressure cooker”, education minister Evarist Bartolo told an audience of mixed migrant communities.

“When there are humans living in a small overcrowded place, we do not remain very human,” Bartolo said of Malta’s over-population phenomenon, with 3 million tourists coming to the island, 4,000 new workers every year, immigration from Libya and the EU.

“These are already formidable issues in the implications of learning to live together,” he said.

Speaking at a conference hosted by the Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Bartolo pledged better communication with migrant communities, and suggested a network for authorities to meet the migrant community before any crisis point is reach.

Education Minister Evarist Bartolo
Education Minister Evarist Bartolo

The director of the Human Rights and Integration Directorate, Silvan Agius, was part of a panel that addressed the integration of migrants in Malta.

“For the first time Malta is taking the Human Rights response to integration. This is something we don’t talk enough about,” Agius said, adding that Malta had to face up to its own shortcomings. “Teaching migrants English and not Maltese is one example of a bad approach. It’s time for a human rights approach.”

“We need to win the hearts and minds of those people in positions of power who are not yet convinced that this is something they want to invest time and energy in,” Agius told his audience. “Tell us not what we should do but how you want to collaborate with us to make things right.”

Amsa Dekna, representing the Libyan community NGO Libico, said there was an influx of university-educated Libyans who were however unable to meet Maltese requirements for work and study, and had moved away to the UK. “Malta is losing so many valuable people because we are unable to include them in the education system,” she said.

Ahmed Bugre is the director of the Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants
Ahmed Bugre is the director of the Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants

“Many of the migrants I spoke to want to go back home as soon as everything settles down,” she said. “They feel they are continuously on hold here. The reason why they stay here for as long as they do is because they are trapped here because of the barriers they face.”

Pakistani Alliance president Prince Aftab echoed Dekna’s sentiments. “The nurses that come from Pakistan and the Phillippines are not allowed to be considered as having an MQF level 5 education,” he said. “Authorities are not accepting their diplomas.”

He said that while Malta had a shortage of nurses there were hundreds of qualified migrant nurses and doctors living in Malta. “They are working as carers, not nurses, even though they are qualified. They should be allowed to go through a short course that would help them achieve the status of a registered nurse. After all, we would be helping the health sector considerably.”

Bartolo however said one of the weaknesses in Maltese educational culture was the lack of a process to recognised skills without necessarily having the papers to show the qualification. “Recognition of prior learning is an issue for Maltese students as well.”

He said universities and colleges in migrants’ countries of origin often fail to back up claims of qualifications. But he said Filipino authorities had been informed about Malta’s MQF level 5. “There are things that we still need to learn. This is a new reality for us too, it’s a learning process.”

Speaking to MaltaToday, Bartolo said unskilled migrants also posed a problem. “They are coming of their own accord because they might see opportunities here which they do not have at home. Their relevant skills and whether they find work depends really on the labour market. This is part of the process of market mobility.”

The National Literary Agency is working to ensure migrants learn Malta and their children can go to schools in the afternoon to learn English and Maltese.

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