A former ONE Television employee has been running a government agency tasked with safeguarding the welfare of migrants for more than three months, with no known qualifications or experience in migration law or policy.

Raymond Theuma spent most of his career working at the Labour Party’s television station, ONE, as a television programme director and a senior technical officer.

In 2017, he became a technical coordinator responsible for implementing EU projects at the Agency for the Welfare of Asylum Seekers (AWAS) and was eventually promoted to senior manager in the same area.

Sources said that a few days after former AWAS CEO Mauro Farrugia was appointed prison welfare commissioner last February, Theuma assumed his role, despite having no apparent qualifications or experience to run the agency.

In a reply to questions, a spokesperson for the Home Affairs Ministry said Theuma was not appointed as the agency CEO and was only “serving as acting CEO until the appointment of a new CEO, who shall not be Mr Theuma”.

“Any announcements on the new CEO shall be made in the coming days,” the spokesperson said.

However, Theuma has been acting CEO for more than three months now and the signature on his email reads “Chief Executive Officer” of AWAS.

AWAS is the government agency tasked with overseeing the welfare of refugees as they go through migration procedures in Malta, which are often legally complex and laborious.

It is responsible for the implementation of national legislation and policy concerning the welfare of refugees, persons enjoying international protection and asylum seekers.

It also manages reception facilities, provides information programmes in employment, housing, health, welfare and education, and promotes government schemes related to resettlement and voluntary returns.

The sources said an agency responsible for protecting people’s rights during one of the most vulnerable periods of their life could not afford to wait months to get a highly qualified leader.

Farrugia, the previous head, is a psychology graduate and had worked in the sectors of disability, challenging youths, multiculturalism and people in difficult situations.

He left the job when he was appointed commissioner for the welfare of prisoners in February, a role from which he stepped down last month, saying he felt he could not live up to the necessities of the job due to personal reasons.

Multiple sources at AWAS said Farrugia’s role has not been properly filled and Theuma’s appointment was unfair, even if it was temporary, because at least a couple of other officials were perfectly qualified for the role.

However, these people had been overlooked, despite having qualifications in migration policy and having worked at the agency for several years.

Times of Malta asked the ministry what qualifications or experience Theuma holds in the field of migration and why other officials were overlooked, but the ministry spokesperson only replied that he was occupying the role temporarily.

AWAS had landed in hot water in 2016, when workers were angered by the hiring of the then-CEO’s son as a support worker.

In June that year, Joseph Baldacchino was appointed as AWAS’s acting CEO and was formally appointed to the role in October. A few weeks later, his son was hired to work at the main AWAS office in Floriana.

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