We have in our midst a growing number of stranded migrants; men, women, and children living a precarious existence with very limited rights, constantly at risk of exploitation and abuse. Almost all are rejected asylum seekers who have been in Malta for many years, unable to be returned home through no fault of their own. Most, if not all, are likely to remain in Malta indefinitely. Their presence is known to the authorities who grant them ‘tolerated stay’ – this is temporary permission to stay in Malta, supposedly until they can be sent back home.
For a few years, between 2010 and 2012, the government granted THPN, a temporary legal status, to rejected asylum seekers who were stranded in Malta, on certain conditions. After this time THPN was no longer granted in new cases. This means that rejected asylum seekers who arrived in 2008 or after could not benefit from this status.
In November 2016, the Government announced that the system in place for the renewal of THPN would be reviewed, and that those who were unable to meet the requirements of the new system being planned would once more be considered as rejected asylum seekers after 1st November 2017. The review process, which threatened to strip people with THPN of the limited benefits they enjoyed, highlighted the precariousness and uncertainty of this so-called ‘status’, which is not regulated by law.
Although to date the THPN system remains unchanged, the review process has not yet been completed and its outcome is uncertain, apart from a commitment to ensure that those meeting the eligibility criteria will, as a minimum, keep the same rights.
Those who do not meet the eligibility criteria, which focus on proof of employment and self-sufficiency, and rejected asylum seekers who do not qualify for THPN, remain in an uncertain situation.
We believe that it serves no useful purpose, for the individuals concerned or for Malta, to keep people, no matter their legal status, in a limbo situation forever.
So, through this campaign, we are calling on the government to:
Establish a legal pathway to regularisation for all rejected asylum seekers who have lived in Malta for 5 years or more and have not been returned to their country through no fault of their own.
Ensure that the criteria for qualification for regularisation are clear and public and not based only on proof of employment and self-sufficiency, but take all an individual’s integration efforts and links to Malta into account.
Draw up legal rules to regulate both the application and the decision-making procedure, which provide adequate guarantees of fairness, independence and impartiality.
Grant clear legal rights to those who qualify for regularisation, as well as to those who today benefit from THPN, which will allow them to live with dignity and to work towards more permanent forms of status, such as long-term residence, in Malta.
Make sure that, whatever the changes to the procedure for renewal, there is no reduction in the rights and benefits of those who today enjoy THPN.