Could Malta’s local councils lead in the integration of asylum seekers?

KOPIN

A delegation of Hungarian and Bulgarian representatives has recommended that Malta’s local councils take responsibility for finding solutions to integrate the asylum-seeking community.

The Bulgarian and Hungarian delegates suggested that the Maltese government could give the local council’s the agency and responsibility to come up with their solutions tailored to their own communities.

This was just one of the recommendations made to three of Malta’s local councils (Marsa, Msida and Gzira), aimed at discussing the challenges and best practices for improving community inclusion.

The event was organized by the social inclusion NGO Kopin, who told Newsbook.com.mt that this exchange was part of a European Commission supported initiative entitled ‘Snapshots from the Borders.’

According to KOPIN, the three-year programme is aimed at, ‘increasing the awareness of local authorities’ councillors and staff on issues related to migration and inclusion.’

‘The Exchange visits are meant to increase knowledge and understanding of the different contexts as well as to share experiences and good practices. Local authorities are in a unique position to implement community-based solutions to increase social inclusion,’ KOPIN added.

These efforts are also aimed at implementing Agenda 2030 and connected with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Maltese government’s Vision 2050 efforts.

Creating a vision

KOPIN explained that such an exchange was particularly important when it came to creating a vision and strategy for integrating Marsa’s asylum seeker community.

‘Marsa is one of the foremost localities in Malta that has suffered from a negative image due to the challenges related to bad urban planning not only related to infrastructure and the built environment but also due to a lack of vision and strategy relating to the integration of asylum seekers.’

Belonging was also a key part of the discussions between the delegates. According to KOPIN, the Hungarian and Bulgarian delegates suggested ways of creating projects that, ‘encourage and entice young people to stay in the locality and residents with a migrant background to contribute to community life and feel welcomed.’

Exchanges to African nations

When asked about possible visits to African nations where the asylum seeker community originates from or transits through, KOPIN explained that they are exploring ways for Maltese councillors to actually participate in field visits to these countries.

‘We are looking at the possibility of visiting either Ghana or Senegal in West Africa or Ethiopia in East Africa,’ they explained adding, ‘This will give the opportunity to those participating to get a better understanding of local contexts in these countries and to increase awareness about global interdependencies related to sustainable development and migration.’