Maltese people and immigrants are not mingling much, exposing the need for an integration policy, two studies have shown.
The research, carried out by voluntary organisation SOS Malta and the UN refugee agency, shows very few migrants had developed some form of meaningful relationship with the Maltese. It also resulted that both migrants and Maltese nationals did not participate much in intercultural activities.
Highlights of the two studies were presented yesterday during a discussion meeting, held at Europe House in Valletta, aimed at exploring the interaction among communities.
SOS Malta’s study consisted of an interview with 70 beneficiaries of protection and 75 Maltese.
Most of the migrants interviewed felt discriminated against at work as they believed they were doing jobs the Maltese did not want and were paid less. They spoke about the need for better access to education and most said they mainly got to know Maltese at work.
The study showed Maltese and migrants were not very involved in multicultural activities. Most Maltese preferred not to set up a business with a migrant and they felt safer doing so with other Maltese or Europeans.
SOS Malta said this highlighted a gap between communities and the need for action to promote integration.
The UNHCR research, which is still ongoing, consists of interviews with 80 immigrants who live in the community. The researchers estimate that about 1,000 live in the community with about 2,500 staying in open centres.
Preliminary results show that most migrants reside in Valletta, Floriana, Msida and Gżira and that they live with friends or family.
About half of those interviewed had stable jobs with construction and manual labour being the most common among men and housekeeping in the case of women.
The vast majority of immigrants never visited a local council office and never heard about the Housing Authority. Very few had developed a meaningful relationship with a Maltese person although they wished to.
Many migrants dreamt of being reunited with their families and continuing their studies but found it difficult to do so because they had to work.
Mohammed Mozzammil, from Ghana, had tried attending courses in Malta but had to give up as he did not have financial support. He had arrived in Malta on a boat carrying 24 people in May 2006. After spending 18 months in detention at the Safi centre he moved into an open centre but soon went to live with a friend. He started working as a plasterer and then moved out on his own.
“What makes me happy is living as a free human being in Malta,” said Mr Mozzammil, who has refugee status. He called on the authorities to grant protection to those who needed it so they too could be free.
UNHCR Malta head Jon Hoisaeter and Claudia Taylor-East, from SOS Malta, spoke about the need for an integration policy that would address various facets including employment, where many immigrants felt discriminated against.
Maria Filletti, from the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality, said the commission was only empowered to investigate complaints made in relation to goods and services. Thus, it could not investigate complaints regarding discrimination at work but could refer the matter to the Department of Employment.