«We are here to ask for our basic human rights, like family reunification. Irrespective of our way of entry, we pay taxes and our children have the right to a name and nationality».
The words are from Doris Doku, one of the organisers of the protest that saw several migrants from the African communities in Malta, on Monday October 4, chanting «enough is enough», marching towards the Ministry for Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement.
Reuniting with their loved ones is not the only grief that darkens the daily lives of dozens of holders of international protection and asylum seekers in Malta. Identity Malta( ID Malta) was at the centre of the recriminations by protesters during the march.
While addressing the crowd, Doku said how they are tired of the administrative red tape that prevents them from living a stable life: "We know how we dwell, we are here as first hand evidence".
The protesters claimed for “stability and not uncertainty”, holding posters and placards with messages “The rights of our children should be `protected”, “We deserve long-term residence”, “ we are humans, not cheap labour”.
In the statement read at the door steps of the Home affairs offices in Strait Street in Valletta, Lamin, a speaker during the protest, denounced the brutal manner in which they are treated by the authorities, specifically pointing the finger at law enforcement officers and ID Malta staff, who should be “trained to welcome migrants”.
He detailed the hardships part of their daily lives: the complex laws impossible to understand for migrants, the denial of children allowance to taxpayers' parents, the lack of information needed to access any service.
Demands made by the protesters range from citizenship to children born in Malta, residence cards for long term resident migrants, to the reopening of the SRA scheme.
THE SPECIFIC RESIDENCE AUTHORISATION (SRA) SCHEME
In 2018, the Specific Residence Authorisation (SRA) scheme was launched by the authorities in order to recognise the contribution that long term residents failed asylum seekers give to the society. They were granted a two-year resident card renewable.
In November 2020, the government decided to close the scheme, failing in the process to renew the documents of eligible immigrants who could not present even single missing documents into their files.
According to many who were denied renewal, the staff from identity Malta were the ones responsible for deliberately giving incorrect information to migrants, or not allowing them into the premises of the building for fallacious reasons.
It was also revealed during the various interventions of speakers that many who had lost their jobs during COVID-19 were requested to pay taxes (which were suspended for all by the authorities) in order for their documents to be renewed.
Joy Edokpolor, a woman whose anger was palpable during her speech, explained how their “husbands and children are crying”, because they don't understand why they cannot travel with their classmates. She said that those who are footballers cannot go play abroad with their team abroad, nor can they visit the world like their friends do. They feel abandoned, left down by the state supposed to protect them.
Ibrahim, who presented himself as Lamin Jaiteh’s nephew, the man from the Gambia who was abandoned by the side of the road by his employer after he fell from a construction building earlier this month, said that African migrants are the people who do jobs that Maltese do not want to do, “we are the people who clean the streets, we are the people who collect rubbish”.
He called for employers to look after their workers, to stop treating them like animals, because “they are human beings”. He reported the case of employees left without their wages up to two weeks after the due time and asked how employers think those people are supposed to go about with their lives and daily needs, rent to pay and food to put on the table.
“We know Malta is a Christian country” he said, “God will punish you if you do not stop treating us so badly”.
Protesters delivered a letter outlining their griefs and demands to the staff of the Minister for Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement, a letter addressed to the Minister Byron Camilleri.