European and international law is very
clear on the principle that migrants fleeing a situation of civil strife or
personal persecution by the state of their country of origin should be accorded
protection in the country of reception, meaning that they should be allowed to
live and work in the country of reception in a regular manner.
The granting of ‘Temporary
Humanitarian Protection’ (THP) by
the Maltese authorities to those migrants who did not qualify for any form of
international protection but who were not repatriated within a short period
from their irregular entry into Malta was half a step in the right direction
towards giving these migrants and their families some form of regular status
that would legitimise their long-term stay in Malta.
However, THP is inherently flawed
because it is a temporary status,
meaning that migrants can never accede to a more definite status no matter for how
long they would have been living, working and raising their children in Malta and also since it is not enshrined in law.
The decision recently announced by
Government not to renew THP
to migrants who have
been in Malta for a very long time reveals the weaknesses of the policy. Such
a decision should not be retroactive.
The Office believes that not only
should migrants who have settled in Malta and integrated in Maltese society
have their THP renewed but that they should be given a more definite and
The fact that some of these migrants
have given birth to and are raising children in Malta is a clear sign that
Malta is their actual home.
The Office believes that it is in the best interest of these migrant children
for the status of the entire family unit to be regularised, since this
safeguards the children’s fundamental right to a family life.
The pathway that is set out should
include citizenship as a right that migrant families with children should be
able to accede to at some point in the course of their lives in Malta.
This pathway should not be limited to
those children who are born in Malta but equally to those migrant children who
were born in other countries
but who have settled
and integrated here
whether or not they enjoy international protection.
Progress has been made especially in
terms of the reception conditions of child migrants, who are no longer being
detained pending administrative and medical clearance. However, a lot more
needs to be done to facilitate the integration of child migrants and their
families. This cannot happen if they are allowed to live in Malta for years
with the threat of a condition of statuslessness and possible deportation
hanging over their heads.