Many on the island consider foreigners, especially African migrants, to be incompatible with life in Malta, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth, according to Dursa Mama, the president and co-founder of Malta’s first refugee-led youth NGO.
Mama was a guest on this morning’s episode of Lovin Daily on the occasion of World Refugee Week, where he discussed the work done by his NGO Spark 15, as well as what life in Malta is like for refugees who have been forced to flee their homes.
“It is very tough. It means you don’t have the option of living where you belong”, Mama said, adding that occasions such as world refugee week were very important to raise awareness about the plight of refugees.
In 2015, Mama – who by that point had been in Malta for just two years and had already started to take an interest in voluntary work – decided to set up an NGO to help refugees integrate into Maltese society and gain skills required for them to be able to start a life here in Malta.
“I remember we had attended a youth global consultation workshop,” Mama said. “We were just there for the workshop with some other NGOs but there were many other young and dynamic people there, and we said to ourselves, ok we’re working with NGOs, but why not become an NGO ourselves.”
Spark 15, he said, offers migrants here in Malta the opportunity to learn English for free, in order for them to have the necessary qualifications to attend university and other educational institutions.
As for promoting integration, Mama said that Spark 15 tried to organise events that appeal to both migrant and local communities. “Football is a great activity. It is something that everyone enjoys and our tournaments are well attended,” he said.
Asked about the challenges faced by refugees in Malta, Mama said he believed that in the vast majority of cases, tensions were due to misconceptions held by both communities.
Unfortunately, both refugees and Maltese people might form an impression based on something they might have heard in the past, and then find it very difficult to move past this.
In reality, however, he said that once a connection is formed, the situation changes completely.
“With integration, you just need to open yourself up…we need to go beyond what we sometimes read in the media and focus on human contact,” Mama said, adding that his experience had taught him the impotence of remaining positive and always trying his best to help those around him.
Mama, who said he was grateful to many NGOs, like the Integra Foundation, which he said had been of great help to Spark 15 and which continue to work closely with them.
He stressed the importance of having such NGOs, especially ones led by refugees since it offers a point of contact to those who might have arrived in Malta recently.
“We know exactly the challenges they are facing, but also we can also understand better the Maltese community and what is expected of us,” he said.
Mama said that while progress can sometimes be slow, he has noticed an improvement over the years, especially when it comes to Spark 15’s work.
He said that his hope was that the NGO could continue to make life easier for young refugees in order for them to stand a better chance of succeeding than those before them.
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