Underreporting is a factor which allows incidents of racism to go unchallenged and unpunished, with the government working to encourage more victims to come forward and seek help, Equality Minister Owen Bonnici told Times of Malta

Bonnici was speaking in the wake of the discovery of Jaiteh Lamin, a migrant construction worker who was abandoned by the roadside after falling multiple stories while on the job. 

During a press conference to launch Malta’s anti-racism strategy on Thursday, Bonnici condemned the incident and said that the government has a vision to turn the country into one of tolerance and which embraces diversity. 

Video: AFP

Asked what specifically the government planned to do to tackle incidents within the construction industry, such as what happened to Lamin, Bonnici stressed that underreporting was a huge issue that was holding victims back. 

“The strategy itself is a horizontal document which tackles all walks of life, I think it would be a mistake to focus on a single sector above all others. Racism goes beyond that and I believe the best approach is to tackle it in a general and holistic manner,” he said. 

“However I would like to see more reporting when discrimination occurs.” 

“One of the facts that shocked me in what was reported is that Mr Lamin, when given the choice to seek help for himself, chose not to because he was afraid that this would land him in a worse place,” he continued.

“This is exactly what we want to tackle. We want to combat anti-reporting because our view is that it is one of the main culprits for racism that leaves such an ugly and cruel mark on people,” Bonnici said.

He added that a new EU-funded project will focus on education and outreach helping NGOs and civil society spread the message that help is available to those who feel like they’ve been discriminated against. 

With an aim to eliminate racism in all of its forms and support intercultural inclusion, the strategy has four objectives

  • establish an infrastructure to support and sustain a commitment to its goals;
  • implement a systemic approach to confronting racism across all policy fields;
  • promote informed public discourse and;
  • tackle all forms of discrimination experienced by minority groups. 

To achieve this, the strategy outlines 22 measures it seeks to implement during its term.

These are:

  • Give mandate to the Human Rights Directorate to support all efforts to see the strategy implemented;
  • Establish an inter-ministerial anti-racism committee;
  • Convene an anti-racism platform with stakeholders from civil society, academia and social partners;
  • Develop a research program on the perceptions of migration and the growing intensity of online hate speech;
  • Author a public report on the implementation and progress of the strategy;
  • Have every ministry design an anti-racism action plan by the end of 2021;
  • Support educational programs;
  • Take action on racism in the private housing rental sector;
  • Build programs for health and social care providers;
  • Support training for employment, business and support service providers;
  • Develop an anti-racism and intercultural pact with social partners;
  • Develop policy to establish equality and human rights standards expected from law enforcement agencies and immigration services;
  • Train media on intercultural standards and zero tolerance to stereotyping;
  • Develop an anti-racism and intercultural pact with media houses;
  • Train on zero tolerance to racist language with political parties;
  • Tackle fake news;
  • A grassroots campaign to equate anti-racism with patriotism;
  • Work to tackle underreporting;
  • Work with stakeholders to eliminate housing discrimination;
  • Gather prosecuting data on hate crime and hate speech;
  • Adopt a code of conduct to counter illegal online hate speech;
  • Develop policy to tackle systemic discrimination.

European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli and Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo spoke in support of the strategy and committed to continue working for anti-discrimination initiatives within their respective offices. 

Former Manchester United football star Dwight Yorke was named an ambassador for the strategy. 

“We have always embraced diversity and as a club took a no-nonsense approach to racism. We don’t want it in football and we certainly don’t want it in society,” Yorke said. 

“We are here to endorse and acknowledge this effort. It’s delightful to see such a beautiful country take on a wonderful commitment and to that we say, thank you.”

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