An African construction worker is in a coma after falling down four storeys and was left at the gates of Mater Dei by his employer, Foundation for the Shelter and Support to Migrants head Ahmed Bugre said.

"His employer drove him by the gate, put him down and left," he said. "So they had to call me," Dr Bugre said, adding there was clearly a "black issue" in Malta. 

Academics, migrants and students gathered at the University to hold an open dialogue on racism in the wake of Lassana Cisse's murder.

Addressing the event, Archbishop Charles Scicluna said Mr Cisse had received help from the Emigrants Commission to apply for asylum. Unfortunately, his application had been unsuccessful and authorities had marked it as 'rejected'. 

"We gave him that label; our institutions and our legislation gave him that label. He was rejected," the Archbishop said. 

The incident should serve as "a critical analysis of our complicity," he added.

"We have served Lassana very badly," Mgr Scicluna said. "We need to help our young people understand that people who are of colour here are not guests. They are part of us," Mgr Scicluna added.

The dialogue, organised by the Faculty of Social Well-being, saw a lot of migrants, Maltese people of colour, and parents come forward with their own experiences of racism in the country. 

'I hope this does not happen to another son' 

Masters student Maali Boukadi, who works at Mater Dei, also said racism was visible at the hospital. Sometimes, she said, migrant patients were not even made aware of the condition they have, because of the language barrier, she said. 

An audience member also told the crowd school officials told her she needed to tell her son to "get used" to people bullying him because of the colour of his skin. 

"I remember back in September 2007, when he used to come home from school, throw his bag and say: 'Ma, do you send me to school just to get picked on'," she said.

She said the head of the school told her she needed to tell her son to "get used to these comments". A riled-up mother then told the crowd, "I hope this does not happen to another son".

Social Policy lecturer Maureen Cole said she had been told by migrant students at University that their colleagues refused to speak English to their colleagues. “This is racism. “Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself how racist you are,” she said.

Addressing the crowd, lecturer Marcelle Bugre said years ago, she used to leave her partner unsure if he would be alive the next time she saw him. "I used to think maybe it was better if I broke up with him in case one day I come and find him dead," she said.

'Let’s not have sound-bites but a long-term debate'

The FSM chief also called for a long-term debate and urged authorities to establish a commission that would address the needs of migrants. 

Just as there had been a commission for other minorities, such as LGBTQI individuals, there needed to be a commission that would ensure people felt protected and emboldened to act, he said.

Other academics echoed these concerns, while some pointed out these discussions often happen in a vacuum among "elites" who could afford to make it to University. 

"Classism is present in our islands and we know very well there is an intrinsic relationship between classism and racism," inclusion lecturer Francois Mifsud said.

We need to have a dialogue with people of a different background, and I think we have failed and created a one-way system, Ms Bugre said. 

Correction May 25: A previous version of this article implied that Mr Cisse had been 'rejected' by the Emigrants Commission. It was his asylum application which was rejected.


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