Stateless Nigerian children ordered by Maltese authorities to provide copies of their employment history and rent agreements
Four Nigerian siblings – including a 20-month-old baby – have been ordered by the authorities to send copies of their work documents and rent agreements in order to renew their protection statuses.
The bizarre demand was made by the Office of the Refugee Commissioner – headed by Martine Cassar – on New Year’s Eve when each of the children received the identical letter. The children, aged 20 months, 3 years, 5 and 8, and their mother are currently protected by Temporary Humanitarian Protection N (THPn) status.
The letters, posted on Facebook by education lecturer Colin Calleja, are completely impersonal – addressed solely to “Dear Sir/Madam”.
“The renewal of your current status is subject to the fulfilling of the current eligibility criteria and the presentation of the necessary documents, namely: An updated JobsPlus employment history, FS3 for the previous year and payslips for the current year, rent agreement as proof of residence, and a recent police conduct certificate,” the letter reads.
THPn is an ex-gratia type of protection that used to be granted to failed asylum seekers, that the government recently decided to scrap entirely, leaving previously protected migrants at risk of deportation.
The letter to the Nigerian family warns them that the Refugee Commissioner will only renew their THPn certificates by latest 31 October.
If they plan to continue living in Malta, then they must procure a valid passport from their countries of origin that will allow them to apply with Identity Malta for the issuing of a new residence or work permit, as is procedure for third-country nationals. Failing that, their only other options would be to apply for an employment license with JobsPlus or make a request for Temporary Humanitarian Protection with the Refugee Commissioner.
However, the policy has thrown up some jarring stories, including of the Nigerian family in question. The parents arrived to Malta on a rickety boat some eight years ago and while the father qualified for Temporary Humanitarian Protection status by virtue of his health issues, his partner failed to qualify and was instead given THPn status.
When their four children were born in Malta, they were all given THPn status too. Since their parents have no proof of their identification, the children have been rendered effectively stateless – with their identification documents only stating their names and THPn status.
“I have sent a letter to the Prime Minister to congratulate him for the wise gesture of sending that letter to that family on New Year’s Eve,” Calleja told MaltaToday. “It’s a ridiculous situation– these children were born in Malta but they are effectively stateless. The government provides them with free primary and secondary education, but then charges them as third-country nationals when it comes to post-secondary and tertiary education.”
He therefore urged the government to grant Maltese citizenship to stateless migrant children born in Malta, and to regularize migrants on THPn status.
Silent protest march later this month
Calleja last month started a petition to persuade the Prime Minister to backtrack on his pledge to deport a group of failed Malian asylum seekers. He told MaltaToday that it has so far been signed by some 175 academics, 600 other people and organisations, including the Methodist Church in Valletta, Church NGOs that run food banks and a group of human rights NGOs such as aditus and the Jesuit Refugee Service.
The academics are also organising a silent protest march on 22 January from the Love Sign in St Julian’s to Sliema. Migrants at risk of deportation, as well as employers who employ such migrants, will get to address the crowd, while protest organisers will read our parts of President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca’s recent Republic Speech in which she condemned the planned deportations.
“There will be an election next year and the government wants to show that it is strong on immigration because there are many racists in Malta,” Calleja said. “However, we have a choice. Do we want to live in a country built on racism and exclusion or in an inclusive country? I hope politicians understand that actions such as the deportations only help to feed racism.”