LGBTIQ activists and asylum seekers are starring in a documentary which for the first time gives LGBTIQ migrants a voice to tell their stories.
“These migrants not only face racism from general society but also feel isolated from their own community for being gay because it is not accepted in their culture,” MGRM member and activist Mohamad Ali ‘Dali’ Aguerbi told Times of Malta.
“We have put together a documentary in the hope of educating, reaching out and bridging different communities together.”
The documentary Rainbow Bridge is a project of the Malta Gay Rights Movement funded by the Voluntary Project Scheme.
For the fifth year running, Malta has ranked first in the European Rainbow Map Index for 2020, which praised the island’s commitment to improving the lives of LGBTIQ families.
Yet, it is a different story when it comes to the island’s migrant centres. “Homosexual migrants already arrive in Malta with the idea that they are criminals for their sexuality,” Aguerbi said.
“When they arrive at the detention centres, there is no one they can speak to about their fears.” He said that the documentary is aimed at humanising the issue of migration and showing how the situation could improve.
Three individuals tell their stories about their journey to Malta, the discrimination they face and their hopes for the future.
Two wished to remain anonymous, worried they would be disowned by their community.
“These people form part of a community which does not accept homosexuality and if they do come out as gay they are at risk of being banished or face physical harm.”
One Nigerian man fled his home country after being caught in a same-sex relationship.
“In Nigeria, being homosexual can lead to a death penalty or 40 years of imprisonment. The man managed to leave Nigeria with a passport and visa,” Aguerbi said.
“When he arrived in Malta and asked for asylum, they refused. He was put in detention and has been there for seven months. He does not feel safe to discuss his situation and has risked a lot to leave Nigeria, only to be placed in a detention centre.”
This was just one of the cases MGRM were aware of, he said.
“We want to create a safe space for these people, a community where they are not scared of being themselves.”
Aguerbi’s partner, professional dancer Chakib Zidi, landed in Malta in 2017 as part of a European dance tour. Just two days into his visit, family and friends messaged him not to return to Tunisia.
“My home in Tunis was being raided by neighbours, who broke in to attack me after rumours that I was in a relationship with another man,” he said.
“In Tunisia, as a professional, I lived a beautiful life but as a gay person I struggled a lot. I wanted to continue acting like my true self and never had plans to leave Tunisia originally.”
Being homosexual in Tunisia can lead to imprisonment.
Zidi applied for international protection in Malta. “By law, it should take up to six months but mine took over three years. It makes you feel unworthy and a nuisance.” He finally received protection last year.
He believes LGBTIQ migrants lack information and that migration centre personnel lack proper training.
“While I am aware there are activists and people trying to change the system, on the whole it feels as if the system creates boundaries for migrants and that we are judged on our religion and race.”
The Rainbow Bridge Documentary will be launched on Friday via Facebook live.