29 Jan 2018

Girl's death exposes cracks in Malta's welfare system

The quality of social services in Malta is being questioned after the death of a 7-year old Nigerian refugee girl. Her parents, who suffered from mental health issues, kept her out of school and away from medical care.

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Malta
Girl's death exposes cracks in Malta's welfare system - NewsMavens
Children playing at Morón Air Base. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

As reported by News Mavens earlier, Malta launched its first migrant integration strategy last year. Applicants for asylum, including those who are rejected, have a right to work in Malta, but many lack referral networks to land a job in the country's booming economy.

Yet open any comments section of the country's newspapers, and most will be saying that African migrants should not be in Malta in the first place and that they deserve the fate that befalls them.

It will be a test to the public discourse: will your average commentator stay ice-hearted in the face of a child's death? Is it possible that the case received a lower priority due to racial bias? Hopefully, two investigations will answer the latter question.

Despite formal guarantees being in place, the human factor can lead a child to fall through the cracks, even in a country that prides itself as child-friendly and community focused.

Victoria's death, as many have commented on Facebook, showed that legal status is everything. Furthermore, there are discussions as to what role racism played in the community disregarding the desperate state of the family.

This case underlines the importance of critical and accurate reporting about social issues and asylum in Malta.

migration,human rights,family,mental health,health

Details from the story:

  • Victoria, a 7-year-old girl from in Żabbar, died on Jan. 21 of a rare disease, according to her death certificate, seen by family and friends.
  • The girl had been missing from school since November, according to authorities.
  • Friends of the family told the Times of Malta that the family had refugee status but could not access social services.
  • Public healthcare services in Malta are available to all residents with national insurance. 
  • Social services were informed that the family barely had enough to eat and that the parents are suffering from mental health issues.
  • Two of Victoria's siblings were placed under a care order following her death.
  • A survey last year by the Jesuit Refugee Service and Aditus Foundation found only a small fraction of unemployed asylum seekers receive benefits.
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