'The spectre of evicting children once again raises its head' – Faculty for Social Wellbeing Dean

Andrew Azzopardi says that Malta needs to revisit its laws and stay in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Malta has ratified

Dean of the Faculty for Social Wellbeing, Andrew Azzopardi
Dean of the Faculty for Social Wellbeing, Andrew Azzopardi

Dean of the Faculty for Social Wellbeing, Andrew Azzopardi, said that the reports that 19 foreign minors face the possibility of eviction from Malta are disquieting.

"As Dean of the Faculty for Social Wellbeing, I do understand the intricate legalities that form the basis of immigration law which strikes to achieve a balance between national security and the fair and just treatment of all people from various nationalities entering and possibly working in Malta," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

He argued that balancing such complex interests requires an in-depth legal understanding as well as a mind and a heart for public policy, which has been a hallmark of the sterling work being carried out by civil servants in this field. 

"Let it be known that from where I stand, children who are made to endure such a trauma goes diametrically against meeting the children’s basic needs as delineated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the principle at the heart of all Maltese welfare that the interest of the child is put ahead of other considerations because of the value and importance that we give to families," he wrote.

He noted that no known assessment has been carried out of the countries of return and the situation that the children will find themselves in had they to return to their towns and villages of origin.

"This could lead to children being sent to worse conditions with potentially abusive situations that would be artificially created by a very mechanic reading of the law. This situation verges on discrimination and unfairness because we know well-enough that a significant number of parents/guardians of (Maltese) children do not make the salary benchmark being imposed on these children and their families."

Azzopardi said that it is not right that Malta seeks migrant workers to occupy the lower paid positions to ensure a thriving economy but then deprives them the right to establish their lives and their families in Malta. He claimed that the island's economic success was due to the work that third country nationals did in the various sectors of construction, hospitality, agriculture and health among others.

"We must heal from the malaise of measuring social yardsticks solely by economic measures. Social and familial wellbeing do not depend only on financial prowess. As the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which Malta has ratified and which we hold to dearly should become part of domestic legislations, states very clearly, the voice of the children is imperative in this matter and short of that we are missing one of the most fundamental principles, that is, listening to what the children have to say about this matter," Azzopardi wrote.

Azzopardi appealed to all concerned to find a permanent humane solution and to revisit stern laws that should reflect European principles and values. 

"We cannot remain unresponsive to such an unjust situation that these minors are facing. Children should be busy playing, studying, exploring the world, making new friends and not fearing the brunt of eviction," he concluded.