Employers struggle to understand the paperwork needed to hire refugees and asylum seekers, a report launched by the UN Refugee Agency in Malta has found. 

The research – released at a business conference on Tuesday – reveals a lack of clarity of information, as well as several administrative obstacles when it comes to recruitment and obtaining work permits.

According to the UN, Malta has received an average of 1,800 asylum applications since 2011.

“Employment is one of the most important factors of integration,” the UNHCR’s Kahin Ismail told a room full of employers and policymakers, as well as representatives from government and non-government organisations.

“Having a gainful job, with all the rights and entitlements associated with, is an important marker for self-sufficiency, harnessing the economic potential and skills of refugees and creating a win-win situation.” 

Cost of work permits

The report identified specific challenges employers face, including the cost of work permits. It also encouraged site-specific language courses and cultural training for those who employ refugees, as well as the development of appropriate tools to bridge the gap between refugees and employers. 

It suggested that refugees be allowed access to English and Maltese language classes, as well as courses that would teach them their rights and obligations under Maltese law. 

There were also calls to establish a body to assess and recognise the skills of refugees who do not have recognised certificates or refugees who no longer have the certificates in their possession.

Discrimination still a problem

The report also found that those interviewed as part of the research said they were discriminated against for religious and cultural reasons, often feeling like they were not short-listed for an interview because of their last name.

Similarly, employers said they often face difficulties when employing refugees, due to colleagues not being welcoming or customers submitting complaints.

The study – compiled with the help of Jobsplus, the Malta Employers’ Association (MEA), the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and African Media Association Malta (AMAM) - also revealed that female refugees especially struggled to get jobs. 

While UNHCR Malta welcomed the work Government has already done, it said it was the government’s responsibility to ensure that public policy and targeted measures" support these efforts and institutionalise new ones, because it is ultimately in the best interest of everyone that it succeeds".

"The government is therefore creating a basic but sufficient framework to improve the chances of success for all migrants who want to belong, and will continue to tweak policies and services in order to remove unnecessary bureaucracy and burdens,” it concluded.