Rejected asylum seekers in Malta get some relief

Rejected asylum seekers in Malta were generally abandoned by the system and received only limited legal rights. But a new government initiative will allow them to establish a more regularized status and give them time to sort out their future.

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Malta
Rejected asylum seekers in Malta get some relief - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

Irregular status means being "irregular" in many areas in life.

People whose asylum claims have been rejected at every instance receive a pending deportation order, but as long as their countries do not send them travel documents, they cannot travel.

So they can continue living in Malta, in uncertainty and exclusion. Some would even consider moving elsewhere, but without documents, they cannot. Stuck in this limbo, many have difficulties in finding regular jobs and accommodation.

Meanwhile, real estate lobbies and politicians blame immigrants for draining Malta's housing stock. Without social contacts, no amount of hours in language classes will make them confidently fluent in either English or Maltese if they did not speak either before migrating.

Last year the government, which had inherited a deterrence approach to migration management (in the past, migrants used to be jailed for seeking asylum, and living conditions were kept deliberately bad), started taking steps to make life easier for migrants. The first-ever integration policy created a framework for subsidized language and cultural integration classes and guidance led by the public sector.

Last week, the government took another step to ease administrative hurdles for perhaps the most vulnerable and the least assisted population -- rejected asylum seekers.

While people who have been given protection (refugee or subsidiary protection) can benefit from various social services, rejected asylum seekers are left on their own, and the limited legal rights they had came under threat last year.

The new framework will allow them to have longer periods of regularized residence based on their integration efforts, which will make them less dependent on often exploitative employers. NGOs working with migrants have praised the move.

Details from the story:

  • Rejected asylum seekers used to need a certificate from the Refugee Commissioner every year to remain in Malta. They also had to certify their employment, independent housing and fiscal contributions.
  • This past framework was called Temporary Humanitarian Protection -- New (THPn) and was available to those who had lived in Malta at least four years and could not be returned to their country of origin because of reasons outside of their control.
  • Around 1,300 migrants had THPn status.
  • Last year the government set an expiry date, and holders were informed they would lose all benefits and become deportable unless they provided the necessary documentation for an EU Single Permit. Faced with criticism, the government retracted this decision.
  • From last week, eligible applicants can apply for a two-year renewable residence permit as part of a new Specific Residence Authorisation policy.
  • The Home Affairs Ministry specified integration criteria. With these and police vetting, rejected asylum seekers would get a residence permit for two years.

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