Revisions to the policy on humanitarian protection for migrants will result in people remaining undocumented and being denied access to the most basic rights, 25 NGOs said on Thursday.
The NGOs were reacting to news that Identity Malta had updated the criteria needed for it to offer humanitarian protection to migrants, officially known as the Specific Residence Authorisation Policy.
Instead of “reducing social exclusion among migrant communities and recognising the efforts of those migrants who are actively contributing to our society” the revisions will destroy the hard-earned integration efforts of hundreds of migrants.
"The revised policy will result in people in Malta remaining undocumented and
being denied access to the most basic rights. This will exacerbate the pain of so many men, women and children," the NGOs said.
The revisions announced on Tuesday by the Parliamentary Secretariat for Citizenship and Communities came as "a shock", the NGOs said in a joint statement.
New applicants are now given one-month ultimatum to file their applications, persons seeking renewal run the risk of permanently reverting to an
irregular immigration status and the policy’s original family-oriented measures are being severely restricted, they said.
The revisions are also unclear on several important aspects and the NGOs fear that such uncertainty often results in "arbitrariness in the assessment of applications".
In 2018, when the policy was first drafted, the government had consulted NGOs, however, this was not the case this time round.
"We truly regret that the 2020 revisions fail to build on the lessons learnt since
the policy’s adoption. They are a retrogressive step that will undoubtedly increase poverty and social exclusion, at a time when the pandemic is already having a terrible impact on migrant communities."
The statement was signed by: aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Allied Rainbow Communities, Anti-Poverty Forum Malta, Azzjoni Kattolika Maltija, Blue Door English, Christian Life Communities in Malta, The Critical Institute, Dean of the Faculty of Education, Drachma, Great Oak Malta Association, Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), KOPIN, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Malta Humanist Association, Migrant Women Association Malta, Millennium Chapel, MOAS, Moviment Graffitti, People for Change Foundation, Repubblika, SOS Malta, SPARK15, Women’s Rights Foundation.