NGOs condemn revisions to migrant residency policy

Miguela Xuereb

24 NGOs said that they were “extremely disappointed” by the revisions the government made to the 2018 Specific Residence Authorisation (SRA) policy, insisting that it achieved the opposite of its stated aims.

“Instead of ‘reducing social exclusion among migrant communities and recognising the efforts of those migrants who are actively contributing to our society’ the revisions will destroy the hard-earned integration efforts of hundreds of migrants. The revised policy will result in people in Malta remaining undocumented and being denied access to the most basic rights. This will exacerbate the pain of so many men, women and children,” the organisations said.

The SRA had been welcomed in 2018 as a unique opportunity to integrate migrants who had lived and worked in Malta for many years, with the organisations having described it as “a clear acknowledgement by the relevant authorities of the personal, social, financial and other contributions made by so many migrants in Malta,” and as “a bold step towards fostering a truly inclusive society.”

Hundreds of eligible candidates were provided with a regularised status and peace of mind.

But the revisions announced on Tuesday came as a shock to the NGOs, with new applicants now given a one-month ultimatum to file their applications, while persons seeking renewal run the risk of permanently reverting to an irregular immigration status. Moreover, the policy’s original family-oriented measures were being severely restricted.

“The revisions are also unclear on several important aspects and, in our experience, such uncertainty often results in arbitrariness in the assessment of applications,” the NGOs said.

They highlighted that the 2018 SRA was the result of a tense but rewarding dialogue process, and expressed regret that the revisions failed to build on the lessons that had been learnt.

“They are a retrogressive step that will undoubtedly increase poverty and social exclusion, at a time when the pandemic is already have a terrible impact on migrant communities.”

The statement was signed by aditus foundation, African Media Association Malta, Allied Rainbow Communities, Anti-Poverty Forum Malta, Azzjoni Kattolika Maltija, Blue Door English, Christian Life Communities in Malta, Dean of the Faculty of Education, Drachma, Great Oak Malta Association, Integra Foundation, Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta), KOPIN, Malta Emigrants’ Commission, Malta Humanist Association, Migrant Women Association Malta, Millennium Chapel, MOAS, Moviment Graffitti, People for Change Foundation, Repubblika, SOS Malta, SPARK15 and the Women’s Rights Foundation.