Citizenship for robots, not migrant children, in Malta 

Migrant children might not be eligible for Maltese citizenship, but robots could soon be.

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Malta
Citizenship for robots, not migrant children, in Malta  - NewsMavens
Robots, PixaBay

Why this story matters:

The rules are still ill-defined, and as the editorial recommended below states, the idea has attracted more ridicule than enthusiastic support. Nevertheless, the procedure has been initiated, and for those who only read headlines, the question to be put to consultation is as good as answered. A dystopia has been unleashed.

Malta is working on its own framework ahead of concrete developments at the EU level. The European Parliament resolution of February 16, 2017 calls on the Commission to propose union-wide definitions of robots depending on their autonomy and adaptation.

According to the European Parliament, the development of AI should guarantee that humans have control over machines at all times and that vulnerable groups, particularly children, elderly persons and people with disabilities, are protected from the damage that can arise from emotional attachment to a robot.

The resolution also condemned the use of robots in care, stating that human contact is essential to care work, and robots should only be used in automated tasks to facilitate the work of humans. Still, the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be granted the status of electronic persons in the future, which would mean they would be responsible for goods and any damage they cause as well as have the capacity to interact with third parties independently. The experts’ open letter, mentioned in the editorial, asks for the legislative framework to develop so as to make robots useful for humans rather than prematurely obtaining rights.

Later this year, Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to the humanoid Sophia, which has recently visited Malta. The robot has more privileges than women and migrant workers in Saudi Arabia and also acts as the UN Development Programme "innovation champion" for Asia-Pacific. Critics mock Malta’s development model as "dubaification" (placing business interests above social cohesion and the dominance of steel and glass, although not at any level as ambitiously or creatively as in Dubai, in the emerging skyline). Will "saudification" become their new catch-phrase?

Details from the story:

  • At an innovation summit, the parliamentary secretary for the digital economy Silvio Schembri announced the launch of a pilot project to propose a strategy on the regulation of AI, a comment also echoed in the prime minister's speech.
  • A taskforce of digital economy and AI researchers, the government tech agency and lawyers will work on it
  • An editorial in Malta Today suspects that the unexpected move is intended to distract the public and improve the government’s public image.
  • Critics slammed Malta's government last year for their refusal to grant citizenship to migrant children born in Malta.
inbox_large_illu Created with Sketch.
Tired of the news media’s prevailing male perspective? We are too.

Get our newsletters composed exclusively by female journalists from all over Europe.


Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
Is something happening in your country that Newsmavens should cover?
Zuzanna Ziomecka
Zuzanna Ziomecka EDITOR IN CHIEF
Lea Berriault-Jauvin
Lea Berriault Managing Editor
Jessica Sirotin
Jessica Sirotin EDITOR
Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko EDITOR
Gazeta Wyborcza, Agora SA Czerska 8/10 00-732, Warsaw Poland
The e-mail addresses provided above are not intended for recruitment purposes. Messages concerning recruitment will be deleted immediately. Your personal data provided as part of your correspondence with Zuzanna,Lea, Jessica and Ada will be processed for the purpose of resolving the issue you contacted us about. The data provided in your email is controlled by Agora S.A. with its registered office in Warsaw Czerska 8/10 Street (00-732). You can find more information about the processing and protection of your personal data at