Updated at 4.03pm with AD statement.

The Maltese-Serbian Community has expressed disappointment at the authorities’ decision not to amend the policy that will see 22 children having to leave the island.

According to the community, the decision constitutes actionable violation of the fundamental human rights to family life and education of the children concerned.

“It discriminates against and penalises parents on grounds of their basic below-average annual income, excluding bonuses and other/additional sources of income,” it said in a statement.

Last week, 17 non-EU families received letters from Identity Malta informing them that applications for residence permits for their children had been refused on the basis that they did not satisfy the financial requirements of a policy which required them to earn €19,000 and an additional €3,800 for each dependent.

Despite the public uproar that followed, the authorities defended their policy claiming they were taking a more lenient approach to means testing and adding that anyone failing that was at risk of living beneath the poverty line.

Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli insisted that the policy was in the best interest of the children, whom the government was safeguarding against living in poverty.

However, the Maltese Serbian Community argues that this policy is contrary to egalitarian and socialist values. It expressed full support to Serbian and third-country national parents in their efforts to remain united with their children.

It added that the policy is designed to inflict psychological abuse and stigma on a vulnerable population of underage children, whose fundamental rights are enshrined in international treaties and conventions ratified by Malta, primarily the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“We urge the Cabinet to reconsider its decision in line with Malta’s international commitments,” the statement said.

“This policy deprives third-country national children of the rights extended to all the other children in Malta, irrespective of their status and nationality."

AD calls for logical approach

Mario Mallia, vice-chairperson Alternattiva Demokratika said the system appeared to be based on "an arbitrary sum concocted by the government". 

The greens said there are numerous Maltese families with income which is below the amount imposed on the families in question.

“The logical conclusion to this reasoning is that the government should contemplate the removal of these Maltese children from their families. If not, the government would be discriminating against the Serbian children,” Mr Mallia said.

AD chairman Carmel Cacopardo meanwhile, appealed to the authorities to adopt a common sense solution.

"It is unacceptable that the government chooses to hide behind dubious legalese in an attempt to justify its unethical position. The rights of children are not for sale. Rules are meant to serve people not the other way round,” he said.

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