Guarantee healthcare access to migrant coronavirus patients – NGOs

A group of NGOs have urged the Government to guarantee migrants testing positive for the coronavirus to be given access to healthcare irrespective of their immigration status.

In a statement the NGOs urged the Government to consider following 9 measures:

  1. Respect humanity. Refrain from public discourse that is alarming or threatening
  2. Protect jobs. Extend effective support to all businesses so as to mitigate the financial impact of the coronavirus epidemic, such as wage subsidies, quarantine leave/grants;
  3. Secure legal residence. Automatically extend residence permits of all migrants, irrespective of their employment status;
  4. Maintain information flow. Seek NGO support to translate and disseminate important information updates;
  5. Prevent homelessness. Seek measures to secure housing to migrants rendered homeless, particularly those at higher risk of contracting COVID-19;
  6. Guarantee food security. Explore measures of food distribution to persons who are unable to provide for themselves.
  7. Fundamental right to health. Guarantee access to healthcare for migrants testing positive for COVID-19 irrespective of their immigration status; 
  8. Do not prejudice future prospects. Refrain from imposing entry bans on migrants made redundant during these months;
  9. Protect those that cannot protect themselves. Whilst we urge Government to reconsider the detention regime currently being relied upon to detain hundreds of migrants, in the short-term Government should equip the detention centres with sufficient materials to protect all detained persons and persons working in the centres.

“It is appalling to hear Government talk of non-Maltese nationals without acknowledging their humanity and – in many cases – their vulnerability. Recent statements by the Economy Minister are, at best, extremely naive and, at worst, reveal a sheer lack of compassion and humanity. Thousands of non-Maltese men, women and children cannot be abandoned to a situation of absolute precarity. Their health and livelihood must be safeguarded in order to respect their dignity and also to prevent any threats to public health. When the nation is facing such challenging times, words of support and encouragement are far more productive than careless talk of unemployment and deportations. Under all circumstances our humanity and decency must prevail.”

According to the NGOs, it has become clear that the coronavirus epidemic is going to have a severe economic impact resulting in large numbers of non-Maltese nationals losing their jobs almost overnight.

“With migrants’ residence in Malta dependant on them holding a work permit, the immediate consequence of their job loss would be the withdrawal of their right to remain in Malta. Migrants who until a few days ago were working, paying taxes and social security contributions, renting homes, attending classes and making Malta home will suddenly become “prohibited persons” under Malta’s immigration laws. As bluntly highlighted by the Economy Minister, this will mean one thing: returns to home countries and, possibly, detention and deportation,” said the NGOs.

The statement was signed by:

  1. aditus foundation
  2. African Diaspora Platform under CCIF
  3. African Media Association Malta
  4. The Critical Institute
  5. Cross Culture International Foundation (CCIF)
  6. Integra Foundation
  7. Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta)
  8. KOPIN
  9. Malta Emigrants’ Commission
  10. Malta Microfinance
  11. People for Change Foundation
  12. SOS Malta
  13. Spark15
  14. Upbeat Music House Malta

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