Hundreds of people descended on Valletta this morning to take part in a protest against systemic discrimination faced by members of Malta’s migrant community.
The protest was organised in the wake of an incident last week, which saw 32-year-old Gambian migrant Lamin Jaiteh discarded on a pavement by his employer after he fell two storeys at a construction site where he was working.
Protestors congregated outside Parliament this morning armed with placards calling for justice for Jaiteh, as well as an end to the precarious situation most migrants find themselves in in Malta.
“Black or white is just a colour,” read one of the placards, with another quite aptly describing Malta as a “concrete jungle built by slaves”.
“We pay taxes and NI,” read another placard.
The protestors’ demands include a proper reform of the legal framework regulating asylum and migration in Malta.
“Migration in Malta is extremely complex and in no way centralised. It is close to impossible for most migrants to understand their rights and the procedures they need to follow to obtained documents and services.”
They are also calling for the reintroduction of the Specific Residence Authorisation framework, which allowed failed asylum seekers and holders of temporary humanitarian protection who have lived and worked in Malta for a number of years to access services like education and healthcare.
The demonstrators are also asking the Maltese government to publicly acknowledge the fact that they pay taxes and contribute to the country’s wellbeing just like any other worker.
“Our children have the right to a name and the right to acquire a nationality. We, therefore, ask the government of Malta to do its very utmost to help children of migrants and asylum seekers regularise their status,” they said.
Another demand was for migrants and asylum seekers to be treated with respect by Identity Malta officials, who have been repeatedly accused of discrimination.
Jaiteh’s story struck a nerve with the population because of the callousness of the employer – Glen Farrugia and J&G Farrugia Contractors – and has started a debate about the exploitation of migrant workers in Malta.
One of the reasons that Jaiteh was not provided with medical attention when he needed it was the fact that he was employed illegally and did not have the necessary work permits.
This is by no means an isolated occurrence, with Malta’s construction sites known to often employ undocumented migrants, many of whom travel to Malta for work from Italy.
In many cases, such migrants are not given any proper residency status, thus preventing them from being able to work legally. And even in instances where they are employed legally, exploitation and discrimination remain a significant hurdle to them being able to lead dignified and fulfilling lives.
What do you make of this?