SubPage Banner

News Details




















Migration: Integration is not happening

Posted Date: 11/08/2011

The Malta Independent - 11 August 2011

Studies among Beneficiaries of Protection (BoP) and refugees as well as Maltese people have shown that most migrants in Malta never formed meaningful relationships with Maltese.

Although non-scientific, the studies give a picture of perceptions and the will, or lack of it, for people to change things. Findings were discussed at a seminar organized by the two organisations at Dar Malta yesterday morning.

At least some 1,000 BoP are estimated to be living in the community while another 2,500 are in open centres.

Migrants in Malta currently total 4,000-4,500 making up 1% of the population. Most come from Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan.

While almost half the BoP have contact with Maltese as employees in the regular or irregular labour market, only 25% of Maltese interviewees said they get in touch with BoPs through their work place. The rest have contact with them through advocacy campaigns or events promoted by NGOs.

Many Maltese feel they don’t have enough information about who the refugees are and where they came from.

Those who had a working relationship with BoPs generally felt good while others described them to be very positive. Cultural barriers were nonetheless reported.

Very few of the migrants interviewed were involved in any kind of intercultural or inter-faith activities and dialogue. While many feel they are not recognised, others have lamented the lack of information on activities so they are constrained to living with their own community.

Maltese people too do not participate in intercultural activities and many feel multicultural classes are a very good opportunity to increase future generation knowledge and skills.

Most of the refugees interviewed have never visited a local council or heard of the Housing Authority.

Very few migrants have the opportunity to visit a Maltese house while a small percentage of interviewees said they were visited by Maltese people. Although BoPs who are living in the community have more possibilities to develop contacts, and make friendships with locals, half the Maltese interviewed showed concern at a question over the possibility to start a business with a BoP. They felt more inclined to consider the prospect if partnering with another Maltese person or another European.

Such findings reveal an existing gap, distance between the two subjects and difficulties in finding a place of possible encounter.

Most of the migrants interviewed said they felt discriminated against at least once, while on a bus for instance.

Discrimination also takes place on salary payments because migrants get a lower pay than Maltese or because they are employed illegally. Many feel that their basic rights are not respected so they believe they are not contributing in any way. Still, they would like to form more friendships with Maltese people.

Nonetheless, 50% of foreign interviewees reported having a steady job. Men generally work in construction while women mostly work in housekeeping.

Although education was never a priority for most of the refugees, they dream of continuing their studies but most cannot afford certain courses especially at University. They would also very much like to be reunited with their families.

Because of this and the feeling of being unwanted or because they see fellow refugees being resettled in other countries, most would like to leave Malta at some point.

The NGOs have concluded that for things to improve, language training for migrants should be a priority for integration.


Living as a free human being

Mohammed, a 27-year-old Ghanaian migrant who shared his experience said he arrived in Malta in 2006 on a boat with 24 other persons.

They spent 18 months in detention and then moved to an open centre. A friend of his helped him get a construction job and he rented an apartment, first in Bugibba and now in St Julian’s. He attended courses to improve his education but felt he did not have the necessary support from the government and could not continue due to the need of supporting himself financially.

He vows not to give up even though many of his friends have decided to take another dangerous boat trip from Malta to Italy, with some of them dying on the way.

“Although I do not have a fixed job at the moment, living as a free human being in Malta makes me happy,” he said.

He used to think that Maltese people are rude but later realised they don’t know about him and other migrants. Experience has taught him that interaction leads to mutual respect.

He wants the government to grant protection status to those who have not been granted this so they too would be able to lead a free life. He would also like to know the benefit of paying taxes in Malta (which he does through legal employment due to his working permit).


Percentage of EU funds not used

As the discussion was opened to the floor, it transpired that no local council representatives were present in the audience even though every council was invited.

A member from the floor felt embarrassed by such lack of representation. She also expressed the wish to know more about the migrants’ qualifications for better employment possibilities.

A government employee involved in the management of EU funds for migrants and their integration said that a percentage of funds is not used and returned to the EU. She pointed out that not having an integration policy in Malta is worrying and urged NGOs to question this and pressure the government.

She also questioned the roles of the Malta Qualifications Council, the Employment and Training Corporation, and Malta Enterprise for their failure to check what is relevant and required for migrants to get trading licences.

Shortages in translators, care assistants for elderly persons and nurses were identified, so initiatives can be taken to direct refugees in seeking training for these jobs.

A representative of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) pointed out that although they take and investigate complaints in relation to goods and services, they cannot investigate discrimination claims with regard to employment.

These have to be forwarded to the Employment and Industrial Relations Division.


Do 1 Thing Campaign

UNHCR and SoS Malta are currently coordinating a campaign in which individuals and NGOs are being asked to take some sort of initiative to help refugees and their integration.

One church group has decided to fill shoe boxes with necessary school items for children at an open centre. Performing arts classes have also taken place. In the near future, a talk will be organized at the annual scouts camp and a fundraising gig will take place by the local band Monkey Functional.



Quick Search