Social media in Malta is rife with offensive content, and public opinion about migrants is generally negative, according to the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance.
Despite progress over the past five years, including “impressive” advances in equality for LGBTIQ people, other issues – including some of the most unfavourable conditions for naturalisation in the European Union – was still worrying, it says in a report.
Malta’s family reunification regulations strictly limit the definition of family members to spouses and unmarried minor children, the report notes.
Malta also lacks systematic data collection on the number of reported incidents of racist hate crime, including hate speech, investigations or prosecutions carried out and sentencing, the commission adds.
The report, which is published every five years, notes that refugees remain the most vulnerable and marginalised group in the country, experiencing isolation and a relatively low level of interaction with Maltese people.
Many refugees complain of extremely low wages and exploitation in unregistered employment, it indicates.
Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are excluded from the right to family reunification, causing suffering and seriously undermining their integration prospects, according to the commission’s findings.
The report makes a number of recommendations, including the introduction of a mechanism to collect disaggregated data on hate crime incidents, recording the specific bias motivation and the criminal justice response. Such data should be made available to the public, it says.
Intensify police training to fight racist, homophobic hate crimes
The commission will be following up on its recommendations in two years’ time, looking into whether the authorities took up its proposal to continue to allow people who cannot be returned to their country of origin to stay on the island legally. The authorities should consider a more permanent form of regularisation for those who have resided in Malta for more than 10 years, the commission recommends.
It is also calling on the authorities to press ahead with and intensify the training of police officers, prosecutors and judges to ensure a more effective fight against racist and homo- or transphobic hate crimes, including violence.
In its report, which covers developments up to December 6, 2017, the commission suggests that “the unnecessarily harsh conditions” for long-term residence status be removed, in particular the need to produce evidence of accommodation that is not shared with non-family members.
The authorities, it continues, should also broaden the list of people eligible for family reunification to facilitate the successful integration of third-country nationals in Malta.
Set up by the Council of Europe, the commission is an independent human rights monitoring body that specialises in issues of racism and intolerance.
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