NGOs which work among refugees have expressed shock over the death of a homeless Somali migrant under a bridge in Marsa on Thursday.
"The grim discovery of Haji's dead body, under the bridge that he had made his home, brought to light the disturbing but all too often hidden reality of poverty and homelessness among migrants in Malta.
"Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding Haji's death are not unique – our work is a daily encounter with people who cannot meet their basic needs. People for whom finding food and, at times, shelter is a constant struggle," the NGOs said.
It is clear that there is much more that can be done to ensure that migrants are able to live with dignity and effectively enjoy their rights.
The migrants' problems, the NGOs added, were often exacerbated by mental illness or alcohol dependence, which not only made these people more vulnerable to poverty and homelessness, but also made it virtually impossible for them to break out of the destructive cycle of poverty without extensive support.
"Although it would be facile to place all of the blame at the door of the state, it is clear that there is much more that can be done to ensure that migrants are able to live with dignity and effectively enjoy their rights.
"Migrants, even those such as Haji who were granted protection, are provided with very limited support to rebuild their lives in Malta. Often they must turn to NGOs for help to learn the language, further their education, or to find a job or housing. Those struggling with mental illness or alcohol dependence, who need intensive services and support, are often unable to find it. This, coupled with
difficulties finding work that is not precarious, seasonal or under-paid, and soaring rent prices, makes it increasingly difficult for migrants to live with dignity."
The NGOs issued their statement to mark International Human Rights Day. They urged the government to address the issue of poverty even among the migrant population and to take steps to ensure that individuals living in destitution receive the support that they need to live with dignity.
The NGOs who signed the statement were Aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Integra Foundation, International Association for Refugees, JRS Malta, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Migrant Women Association Malta, Migrants’ Network for Equality, People for Change Foundation, Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta and SOS Malta.
In a separate statement, the Democratic Party said that while much needed significant progress had been made in Civil Rights in Malta, basic human rights for certain sectors of Maltese society were not being protected.
It noted that Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela recently said that children born in Malta to Eritrean parents will not be sent to Eritrea due to lack of documents in Eritrea. It asked whether these children stateless, adding that if this is the case, then they should be given the citizenship of the country in which they were born, Malta.
In the case of the Malians awaiting deportation, the party observed that some have been in Malta for years, worked here and become fully integrated into society.
The party said the citizenship question has to be revisited.
"A person can live here for years, work legally, pay taxes, rent, national insurance contributions, satisfying all acceptable criteria, and yet, may only be granted citizenship at the relevant minister's discretion. Yet others, without any interest in our country and only to gain a financial advantage, just need to pay a certain amount of money up front in order to be granted a Maltese passport," the party observed.
"This system is unjust and elitist where those with money are treated differently from those without. It must be revised so that all are treated equally. Only then will the fundamental human rights of all living here be safeguarded."