Around 70 Sudanese migrants living in Malta turned up at the offices of the UN Refugee Agency this morning to protest against the slow process of resettlement to other EU countries.
Farouk Bebekir, 28, said the government seemed to prefer resettling other East Africans to keep Sudanese in Malta because they are hard-working, adaptable and can communicate in Maltese.
“But there is no future here,” he said, pointing out that permanent work was difficult to find and bills were constantly increasing.
“We have been here six years and we don’t get any help. Others have gone to Europe to become doctors and we are still here, struggling to pay water and electricity bills.”
He added that refugees who are resettled to other EU countries can get a passport to travel and can even bring over their families to live with them and build a future together. But in Malta, they cannot travel freely and have not seen their family members in six years.
“If the government wants to keep us here, the conditions must improve. We need to be given help to find good work and job training. We need to get benefits Maltese employees get and we need to be able to travel.”
He added that if they could not be resettled and the situation in Malta did not improve, they would probably prefer to go back to Darfur and die there.
“At least we will die in our country with our friends and family not here alone, with nothing.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the UNHCR, Fabrizio Ellul, explained that the process for resettlement took long but the agency did not discriminate between nationals of different countries.
“Twenty per cent of Sudanese have been resettled,” he said, adding that this was not a low figure compared to other nationalities.
He stressed, however, that resettlement was not a right and if countries offered to take migrants from Malta the decision of who to take was theirs.
Countries generally take vulnerable migrants who find difficulty integrating.
The UNHCR spokesman added that integration programmes needed to be improved for people who had to stay in Malta at least until they are resettled.
A meeting was held this morning between Sudanese representatives and the UNHCR while another one is scheduled for Friday.