Malta has seen its fair share of human rights abuses based on racial discrimination, but now, the government has developed its first anti-racism strategy that is filled with new measures that want to eradicate this pervasive issue.
“We are a government committed to ensuring equality for all in a society that is becoming increasingly more diverse and multicultural,” said Equality Minister Owen Bonnici.
The strategy will be worked on within the next two years and it is a response to pervasive ideologies in the country.
These proposals were developed in accordance with the Human Rights Directorate with a “whole of society” approach, meaning that all (or at least most) sectors in society will be involved and regulated. It also goes hand-in-hand with the European Union’s Anti Racism Action Plan of 2020-2025.
Here are seven of the most notable measures:
1. Law Enforcement And Immigration Services
There is an obvious distrust in law enforcement and immigration services due to a general lack of awareness and training that officials are subject to.
Such distrust can be seen in cases like that of Lamin Jaiteh.
Jaiteh was dumped on a sideroad after suffering from a dangerous fall on a construction site that he was working on and when he was approached by authorities who were there to help, he cried out of fear of ending up in jail or worse.
To avoid similar distress from reoccurring, the government wants to conduct ongoing training in human rights and equality standards while also strengthening the dialogue and cooperation between such agencies and members of minority groups.
They also want to strengthen support for victims and witnesses of misconduct.
“It is essential to create a culture where racist abuse or failure to meet equality and human rights standards is regarded as having no place within law enforcement agencies or immigration services,” the strategy said.
2. Housing Discrimination
A recent survey by the Fundamental Rights Agency 10 found that 23% of respondents in Malta perceived illegal racial discrimination in access to housing in the five years before the survey was conducted.
Such bigotry was often based on skin colour, surnames and citizenships, the respondents said.
To ensure that discrimination in this sector is dealt with according to the law, discussions will be heald with victims and the equality body.
The government will also develop an information sheets on rights and obligations of tenants
A model code of practice will be developed as will improved training for estate agents with relevant input by the Human Rights Directorate.
3. Patriotism = Anti-Racism Project
This project wants to reframe the patriotism narrative at various levels by showing citizens that to truly be patriotic, you must be anti-racist.
“One’s love for Malta today rejects nothing of our history but includes our status as standard-bearers in the field of equality,” the strategy explained.
It is determined to embrace the intercultural and diverse society that our island harbours and which drives its economic success.
The project will include activities designed to reshape the patriotic mind-frame.
4. Tackling Underreporting
According to an EU MIDIS 2017 report, Malta experienced among the lowest levels of victims reporting discrimination in Europe. The country also scored disappointingly low in awareness of the existence of the equality body and anti-disctimination legislation among persons stemming from the Sub-Saharan African region.
EQUALITY4ALLMT is a project specially designed to tackle this underreporting and subsequent awareness issue through the training of minorities to empower them to enjoy their rights while being informed of the remedies laid down in the law.
The project will also raise awareness of the general public on EU Directives and national legislation related to racial, religious, intersectional and ethnic discrimination. Along with increasing intercultural understanding and equal opportunities.
An outreach model targeting the grassroots through local councils will also be developed to unite them in the fight against discrimination.
5. Hate Crime And Hate Speech
“An unknown number of hate crimes remain unidentified or unrecorded – and thus un-investigated, unprosecuted, uncounted for and ultimately invisible,” the strategy said.
Therefore, this measure aims to create a mechanism that should collect disaggregated data on hate crime incidents, including hate speech, on the grounds of race, colour, language, religion, ethnic origin, citizenship, sexual orientation and gender identity.
It will record the specific bias motivation as well as the criminal justice response.
To combat online hate speech, Malta will adopt a code of conduct with a voluntary commitment by information technology platforms to review and remove, when appropriate, illegal speech content.
6. Separating Truth From Fiction
The “Anti-Rumour” strategy of the Council of Europe will be adapted for local purposes to distinguish between truth and distortions of history, current affairs and statistics especially on social media.
This strategy will identify major rumours, collect objective data and emotional arguments to dismantle falsities, create an anti-rumour network of local actors from civil society, train and empower “anti-rumour” agents, and finally, design and implement anti-rumour campaigns to raise awareness.
7. Research Programme
Research into perceptions around immigration leading to a growing intensity and prevalence of hate speech online and intra-ethnic and intra-religious tensions could lead to increased polarisation and radicalisation.
A four-pronged research programme is proposed:
a. Quantitative and qualitative research to understand the experiences of minority groups, the impact of racism and the requirements for intercultural inclusion;
b. Media monitoring to grasp the existing narratives;
c. Qualitative research to comprehend the attitudes towards and experiences of foreigners and immigrants living in Malta and;
d. Quantitative research to gather the extent to which certain attitudes have spread in order to respond effectively.
Check out this interview that Lovin Malta had with a head of one of the units of the Anti-Racism Strategy, Alexander Tortell.
One must keep in mind that there’s a very big difference between strategies with ambiguous mechanisms and the actual implementation of projects and policies.
Hopefully, the necessary political and social involvement will occur to turn this inclusive utopia into a reality.
Do you think that the strategy is missing anything?