Hana went to a Qawra hairdresser to get her hair done but instead got sent back to her country.

As she sat in the chair for an appointment set the week before, her hair wet waiting for a blow-dry, a woman walked in and told the hairdresser she needed to be slotted in quickly as she had a wedding that evening. 

Dursa: “I have a few seconds to qualify for the national team... next year, I want to be on it.” Photos: AditusDursa: “I have a few seconds to qualify for the national team... next year, I want to be on it.” Photos: Aditus

The hairdresser told Hana that the woman had an appointment before her but arrived late as she was stuck in traffic. 

“I told them that I had understood what had been discussed and repeated every word to them back in English. At that point, the hairdresser started yelling at me, using vulgar language. 

“Two other women looked down when I corrected the hairdresser and one of them advised me to leave. The hairdresser continued yelling at me and said that I am African and that I should go back to my country.”

Hana’s is one of 12 accounts in a new publication by Aditus Foundation called Our Island II. Funded by the President’s Award for Creativity (Arts Council Malta), it is Aditus’s second publication to document refugees’ Malta experiences. Both books are available from the Aditus office against a small donation.

While Our Island featured personal stories from people offering protection, the second book presents stories about living in Malta as a refugee.

“We wanted to avoid asking refugees to repeat, for the umpteenth time, why they left home and about the voyage,” Aditus director Neil Falzon said.

“It is a book about integration and the paths that people follow – voluntarily or otherwise – as they slowly make Malta home, their island.”

The contributions are quite different from each other – each and every refugee has an individual personal story in the same way that each and every one of us has an individual life, history and future, Dr Falzon told the Times of Malta. 

In the introduction to the book, he notes that as refugees try to normalise their lives in Malta they try to behave in a way that does not merely meet social standards, but quite often surpasses such standards. 

Hairdresser started yelling at me, using vulgar language

Colourfully described, there is a feeling that migrants’ only path to acceptance, integration and respect is by being cleaner, more obedient, more hard-working and punctual, learn more languages, do more voluntary work, get higher grades and, generally, be true heroes in everything.

In this book, however, they are not being presented as superheroes or even  model citizens.

Adil, arrived in 2008

“I met an old man, who asked me if I had been born and raised in Birkirkara because I said I felt I was a Karkariż. He told me that he couldn’t understand why I said that because I was black. I did not hold it against him, though. I understood that he just didn’t know better. To me, it was just a funny situation.”

Farah, arrived as a minor

I could not recall doing anything to anger the client. I had only just met him. My colleague pulled me to one side. “Farah, I need to speak to you,” he said in a regretful tone. He barely gave me eye contact as he spoke to me. “I’m sorry, but the client does not want a man of colour in his house.”

Mary, arrived in 2000

I will have a good future. This house is mine. I bought it because both of us have a good job, we went to the bank and got a loan.

Growing old in Malta? Yes!

Racism? No, I’ve never had any problem with racism, because there is a zero tolerance at the hospital.

Maybe because I am assertive or so? Because if you try it, I am going to put you down and tell you: “Listen, I am working and paying taxes.”

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