It’s official news that Malta needs 12 000 workers and the country does not have enough human resource in its population to fill up the vacancies. The solution found by the government to solve the problem is the hiring of thousands of east European citizens.
They will be rightfully given all the legal conditions to be able to work and live with dignity in the country. They will be given residency permit and will be directed into decent accommodations.
But if unemployment among Maltese citizens is almost non existent, there is a category of people living for years in the country who still suffer precarity. They are African migrants.
Rubbish collectors, construction builders, cleaners in restaurant, hotels and offices in majority come from sub-Saharan Africa. Almost all of them came from the horrible route through the sahara desert and Libya, through infinite sufferings. They managed to reach Europe and some remained in Malta.
They have been living in the country for many years, working, some legally, some in the black economy,( in favour of unscrupulous employers), setting up families, starting small businesses. Contributing to the boom of the economy. Malta is their country and they are not going to leave, because they are already at home.
Numbers, testimonies and physical presence in schools and streets tell the story of an already multicultural and multiracial Malta, with all its beauty and challenges.
Challenge can be successfully tackled with a political will, and beauty needs to be looked after.
In Malta, against any economy-logic, the precariat is part of the African migrants. Those who try to leave to seek a different life elsewhere are sent back to comply with the Dublin Regulation which states that a migrant belongs to the country where he first gave his fingerprints
It’s important to note that here in Malta, all the categories of asylum seekers can work legally, without the need for the employer to submit to the test market. It’s easy to hire them.
There are 5 categories present on the job market: -Refugees, -Subsidiary protection holders, -Temporary humanitarian protection(n) (THPn) holders who have a working permit, then, there are -Failed asylum seekers and -Asylum seekers who don’t have a working permit, but the employer is the one who submits the application for them, and Jobsplus “will issue them with an employment licence to perform a particular occupation for a duration of three months renewable.” (Job Plus).
Migrants who make it to Malta are fortunate because thanks to its booming economy, they have good possibilities to transform their life in a positive way. They are capable and eager to work, after all, that is the reason why they ran away from places where they weren’t given any possibility of a dignified life. At the same time, Malta can praise itself to be the difference in Europe, not only as the country with the lowest unemployment rate, but also as a place which restores human dignity.
"We don’t have any choice but to live together. The world is forever a diverse place. Multi-racialism, multi-ethnicity, mixed marriage, children…these realities are shaping our society and there is no going back. The only viable move for all is to embrace it positively."
The NGO African Media Association conducted a pilot project called Migrant Skills Register, based on the employment of skilled African migrants.
According to the project coordinators, 250 migrants registered, many of them with skills learned in a non conventional way, looking for a any job that can allow them to be self sufficient. The conclusion of the project revealed a huge number of dropouts from employment due to various forms of exploitation: down-grading, wages under the minimum and no contracts… African communities in Malta composed of Nigerians, Eritreans, Somalis, Sudanese, Ivorian or Senegalese also have numbers related to unemployment or social precarity.
Beauty needs to be looked after
Documentation is the focal point of concerns for the people mentioned in this article, as while they are allowed to work, to pay taxes, while they are emotionally mixing up with Maltese, getting inter-racially married, befriending, they are not given easy access to the main services that guarantee a social protection.
A THPn holder for example is a migrant who is granted humanitarian protection, can work legally, but he is not entitled to any benefit if unemployed and he has to renew his working permit each year.
A rejected asylum seeker is a person who is denied international protection but cannot be deported for the lack of cooperation of their country of origin: Thanks to the need of workforce in Malta, they are allowed to work, unfortunately while they pay taxes and social insurances, they do not have access to many services, like opening a bank account. Their situation exposes them to many abuses by unscrupulous employers who take advantage of their vulnerability.
Children born under such conditions inherit their parent’s status, or die due to the lack of care, as the news has recently broke out about the death of an 8 years old Nigerian girl.