Many migrants are forced to ask Maltese people to hail buses for them or face being left behind by discriminatory drivers, a refugee integration report has found.
The study, conducted in December by refugee agency Aditus, indicated that migrants were facing daily discrimination by public transport providers.
The qualitative study asked 156 refugees to define their obstacles to integration. Many claimed to have been subjected to “unfettered discrimination” by both drivers and passengers.
Human rights lawyer and Aditus director Neil Falzon said complaints on the public transport system were continuous.
Such complaints ranged from drivers refusing to accept migrant passengers, to verbal racism and even assault.
“We receive regular complaints on this issue and some are worrying. We have had refugees who said other passengers refuse to sit next to them.
“Others said they would spend their bus rides having phrases like ‘go home’ being hurled at them from passengers and employees alike,” he said. Asked to quantify the reports received, Dr Falzon said the figure fluctuated but pointed out that transport ranked high on the migrants’ list of complaints.
“The biggest complaints are on housing and employment but I’d say that transport is up there with the main concerns,” he said.
A Polish expat told The Sunday Times of Malta last May about an incident she witnessed when two ticket inspectors severely humiliated a migrant before dragging him off the bus.
The results of an internal inquiry into the incident were never published by the transport provider. Dr Falzon said the solution hinges on the implementation of a comprehensive integration policy.
The report also stressed the importance of such a policy, especially since two-thirds of the refugees interviewed claimed they had no relationship with any Maltese. In fact, many confirmed they lived their lives separately from locals.
Of those who reported having Maltese acquaintances, one third said their relationships had developed through the workplace. The majority said they had no relationship with any colleagues outside work.
The majority of interviewees also said they had never actively participated in community events. Although many had attended village feasts, they still felt the need to distance themselves due to negative experiences of racism.
The report found that the vast majority of refugees did not know their neighbours and reported having close to no relationship with the local community.
The figures seem to tally with a report published by the University Students’ Council two weeks ago, which revealed that more than 40 per cent of students were not comfortable living in the same street as a migrant.
It had also found that 90 per cent of students felt racism was a problem on the island.
Despite this, most migrants told Aditus they felt safe living in Malta. The main reason for this was the sense of community, which, while migrants felt left outside of, made them feel less threatened.
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