[WATCH] Marsa band club refuses entry to black people

The Holy Trinity Band Club has adopted a members only policy that doesn't apply to Maltese people

The Holy Trinity Band club has adopted a members only policy which is not applied to Maltese people
The Holy Trinity Band club has adopted a members only policy which is not applied to Maltese people

A band club in Marsa is breaking the law in refusing entrance to black people under the guise of a members-only policy, MaltaToday can reveal.

The discriminatory policy has been adopted by the Holy Trinity Band Club situated in Marsa’s main square opposite the parish church and a few doors down from the police station.

Band club President Clinton Sammut has denied the existence of such a policy, insisting the premises was “open to all”.

“The rules are simple, you come inside and you respect those around you. It is irrelevant from which part of the world you’re coming from,” he said when confronted about the matter.

However, MaltaToday knows of at least one case when a black person, who happens to be Maltese, was refused entry on the basis of a members-only policy.

Ahmed Bugre, director of the Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants (FSM), a Maltese national since 1990 and a practising lawyer and pastor, was refused entry to the club last July.

“I was meeting two friends in Marsa and I decided to go have a coffee in the square. I did not want to go to another shop as I didn’t feel that the appropriate hygienic standards were met, and so I decided to go to this band club,” Bugre recounted.

However, the individuals responsible for running the bar that day asked Bugre and his friends to leave the premises because the place was only for members.

“As soon as I walked in I could feel their eyes looking at me, and I knew exactly what was going to happen… I was so upset that I didn’t even say anything. I know that if I had quarrelled with them, it would make it even harder for the next dark-skinned individual who unsuspectingly walked in,” Bugre said.

Despite the club’s official denial of a members-only policy, a MaltaToday journalist was told otherwise by the bar owner when visiting the premises as part of an exercise to try and understand the migration phenomenon in Marsa.

During a visit one evening two weeks ago, the person in charge of the bar on the day informed the journalist that the band club had only recently adopted a membership-only policy to counter a surge in disorderly behaviour in the town.

When the journalist pointed out that he had not been asked for his membership at the door, the person replied: “But you’re Maltese… It may sound racist but we’re forced to enforce such rules.”

Any policy that discriminates on the basis of skin colour, racial or ethnic origin, is illegal, according to Silvan Agius, the director for human rights and integration directorate.

“If the refusal to admit an individual is directly or indirectly based on the skin colour or other racial or ethnic origin characteristics, then such action is illegal under both national and EU law,” Agius said.

He pointed out that victims of such discrimination may report the incident to the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality for it to determine whether discrimination is indeed happening and if it is, action is taken to remedy the situation.

“One such outcome could be a formal request to repeal illegal policies,” Agius said.

The government is currently finalising its Equality Bill, which intends to facilitate the system of lodging discrimination complaints while increasing the remedial action that can be taken in instances like this case.

“This action will include the possibility to receive monetary compensation for the damages caused once the bill is passed,” Agius said.

Marsa and Hamrun have been at the centre of mounting controversy over the presence of a large community of migrants living there. Many live in rented overcrowded houses and apartments.

Some residents have complained of disorderly behaviour by some migrants and lamented a situation that also sees a few sleeping in the rough on benches in public gardens.

The government has responded by increasing the police presence in the locality but people who work with migrants believe this approach does little to address poverty among migrants and the lack of integration.

More in National

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition

Subscribe