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African migrants in Malta: An uncertain daily life in a hostile world

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

On the eve of the Pontiff's announced trip to Malta during which he will visit a centre for asylum seekers, discussions are taking place about the living conditions of migrants in these centres, which are mostly populated by young men and women from Africa.

Migrants wait for a possible employer at the Marsa roundabout in Malta. More than once , they end up not being paid by the person who hired them. Photo Regine Nguini Psaila

In Malta, life for migrants of African origin is far from rosy. The reception centres are as horrible, as several reports have stated. Even outside the centres are a disgrace.

Beyond their rather ramshackle physical appearance, they are also recognisable by their timid and hesitant hopes, their uncertain looks. These are the almost standard attitudes of African migrants in Malta.

They were so beautiful in Africa though, full of energy, driven by the wildest hopes and dreams, strong and proud as only the young in their twenties can be. The breaking point is the choice they make for their future. They make the wrong choice, to take the irregular route to Europe. To do so, they cross the Sahara almost on foot, the Mediterranean almost by swimming, to get to a place where "nobody wants them", as the philosopher Achille Mbembe summed it up.

A place where they are hated on sight, judged by their emotions, accused of everything and nothing, accused for everything and nothing. They are the scapegoats, the goats of atonement, the abandoned, the exploited, the whipping boys. They look so much like Frantz Fanon's 'damned of the earth'. And to think that 60 years have passed since this masterpiece was written!

From beautiful and proud spiritual beings who left Africa, they become God-fearing people in Europe. "I have handed my life over to God, God is in control", one hears young men and women in the prime of their lives, mired in inextricable problems of documentation, housing, work, mental health and a host of other worries. God is their instrument of survival. As if he were a pro bono lawyer, they put all the strength of hope for a better fate in him.

The hope that translates into that furtive, questioning look that is quickly lowered in the face of the most despicable aggressions from the racist mass. The racist mass that manifests itself in the form of an employer who uses and abuses his power, certain of impunity. In the form of a landlord who ostensibly refuses to rent to Blacks because "they are dirty, noisy and will bring all of Africa into the flat". In the form of the doctor who is startled by the sight of his black patient.

In the form of judges who impose disproportionate sentences, where a local gets a slap on the wrist.

We are told that we will be robbed, raped, beaten, tortured, bullied, humiliated, degraded. We believe it only when it is too late

Would only they have known the beating that awaited them once in the reality of their dreams, that they would never have wished to live them. Or maybe they did, after all.

"We don't believe in the bad things we hear, as long as we are in Africa," a young lady from Nigeria told me. She was not the only one to admit this. Several other African migrants echoed her words. We are told that we will be robbed, raped, beaten, tortured, bullied, humiliated, degraded. We believe it only when it is too late, once we have become the prey, the victims. Some add that they would not even advise their worst enemy to make this journey.

From a dream to reality, there is a gulf. The French writer Huysmans wrote that "reality does not forgive being despised; it takes its revenge by collapsing the dream, by trampling it underfoot, by throwing it in a heap of mud!"

Live your dreams, yes, but by conscientiously studying the reality they project.

Note of the author. Migration is a human Right.

There are people who are FORCED to flee their home because of war, their opinions, their religious choices. Not all young people choose willingly to take a hazardous destiny. People Smugglers are working hard to lure many of them into a life wrongly portrayed, lying and stealing life away from young people unaware of their fate once on the way. States that have signed the Geneva Convention on the Right to Migration must fulfil their obligations. We have seen with the war in Ukraine that they can do it. We are telling them that not only White refugees feel pain and distress while on the run, Black and Brown refugees equally do.


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