20 JUNE 2023

World Refugee Day 2023: How can Malta be more welcoming to refugees?

Every year, World Refugee Day invites us to remember the men, women and children who were forced to flee their homes in search of safety. This year, to mark Malta’s forthcoming launch of its second National Integration Policy and Action Plan, the Malta Refugee Council wishes to urge Malta to develop a clear and inclusive pathway towards refugees being accepted and welcome.

Refugees who have settled here need better guidance on what it takes for them to be truly welcome in Malta. From the moment of their arrival, they are repeatedly told that Malta can never be their home. This harsh message follows them along their paths, where they are constantly subjects of criticism, discrimination and exclusion. After years of life in Malta and despite their best efforts, they remain on-lookers of Malta’s social and cultural life, burdened with the knowledge that Malta will never really be home.

This pathway should be one that starts from as early as possible in a refugee’s interaction with Malta. It should have as its goals those elements that are core to being real community members: Maltese citizenship, voting rights and the right to stand at elections. Throughout, refugees should be encouraged to become self-sufficient through language and vocational training, and their skills and qualifications duly acknowledged. At every step, we need to pay close attention to the stories accompanying each person: loss and pain yet also strength, resilience and hope.

Yet of course, refugee integration is not merely about paperwork and formalities. It is also, and possibly more importantly, about having coffee with neighbours, socialising at band clubs, participating in festas, carrying the statues during processions, building carnival floats, supporting the town’s football team, having roles in Maltese television programmes, organising playdates for children. This is indeed possible, and we witness several examples of personal initiatives that seek to uplift refugees through the power of empathy and engagement.

Ultimately, refugee integration is about shared experiences that unite and create bonds. Bonds that will make Malta a stronger, more resilient and compassionate society.

On World Refugee Day 2023, the Malta Refugee Council urges Malta to stop and think about friends, colleagues, employees, neighbours, family members who are trying to make Malta home. By welcoming refugees with open hearts and open minds, we can tap into their potential and foster inclusive societies that benefit us all. How can Malta be more welcoming? What role do we all have to play in the path towards their integration here?


Established with the kind support of the Dutch Refugee Council