Help Malta’s Refugees
by Belinda Hodder
Most people know Malta as a beautiful Mediterranean holiday destination. But if you scratch below the surface, you will learn about the refugee crisis here – the struggles people are enduring and the injustices at hand.
I have recently become friends with Chèrif and Salmane – two African refugees who have made their home in Malta. They speak of corruption from government officials in Africa and low quality of life, with little money to live off and many things costing too much – including a passport. So they left without one, in search of a better life.
They travelled to Libya, intending to pass through and make it to Europe to find a job and send money to their families back home in Senegal and Gambia. After spending time imprisoned in Libya, they spent two days on a small boat, unable to see the direction they were heading and with no way of knowing how long their journey would last. They had a very limited amount of food with them. Malta received them since there was not a great number of people on the boat with them, but they were immediately detained. They spent two weeks in a detainment centre and then two weeks in prison, not knowing what was going to happen to them, until one day their release was decided. They have since found work here, paid tax and contributed to society.
Chèrif and Salmane were extremely lucky. There have been reports of physical abuse in the asylum detention centres in Malta, a lack of basic necessities and even suicide attempts. Many others like them are killed in Libya or die at sea when they make this journey. Others are sent back to Africa – as has happened in January this year when Tunisian coast guards pulled back refugees because Malta failed to step up to their legal obligations in the search and rescue zone. Malta is supposed to provide a port of safety to anyone experiencing difficulties within its territorial waters but it is not currently doing this. There is no question that Malta is full – it is densely populated and overcrowding is a problem but there must be an alternative solution than leaving people to die at sea or to be pulled back to a country they are fleeing from because of a lack of human rights. This is a humanitarian crisis and Malta needs to do more.
Meeting these people has really expanded my awareness of this issue. Seeking justice is an important part of being a Druid and, therefore, I feel compelled to share the story and ways that we can help at an individual level, as follows.
Firstly, by being aware of these issues, spreading the word and always adopting a stance of inclusion and equality for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, we can make a difference to peoples’ lives.
Secondly, if you have any spare time that you could volunteer to help refugees, specifically in Malta, there are several organisations (see below) you can contact to help with remote roles such as teaching English, communications, social media management and administration.
Thirdly, if you are able to make a financial donation this will go towards providing clothing, learning materials and supporting the organisations to provide essential services.
Organisations to contact:
Send an email to the European Commission here.