Integration = Belonging

 

Although Malta has been at the crossroads of the movement of peoples since time immemorial, migrant integration governance has only a short history. It started to some extent with the 2005 policy document Irregular Immigrants, Refugees and Integration, which was sparked by the onset of migrant boat arrivals.

Nonetheless, the first time that a Ministry was specifically charged with an integration portfolio and, consequently, a systematic approach, was in March of 2013 when the Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties (MSDC) was set up. One of the first initiatives taken was to disseminate information relevant to migrants through a dedicated website on various topics such as necessary documentation, housing, and education. These initiatives were made in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The website’s aim was to act as a portal of quick access to the most important and necessary information, especially for newly arrived migrants.

As part of the Mind D Gap project led by MSDC, a public consultation was carried out in mid-2015, with the resulting document being a Framework Document entitled Towards a National Migrant Integration Strategy 2015-2020. This document brought together opinions and proposals from individual citizens, governmental entities, civil society organisations, academic institutions as well as international organisations, and pointed towards what an integration strategy for Malta could look like. The aim was to get as much feedback as possible on any relevant issues or necessary changes.

The Framework Document also published the results of a national telephone survey on perceptions on third country nationals (TCNs) and immigration in Malta where it was found that a relative majority of the population agreed with the concept of integration. Those who opposed it were often either unsure of its meaning or had no direct contact with migrants in Malta. A conference ensued in June 2015 to launch these results.

The Human Rights and Integration Directorate (HRID), later renamed as Human Rights Directorate (HRD) was set up in November 2015. In the ensuing period it kicked off several initiatives, which are expected to be consolidated and expanded upon. For example, the Forum for Intercultural Affairs was established, meetings of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on integration were held, and a strong collaborative relationship was established with various partners.

Integration = Belonging. Migrant Integration Strategy & Action Plan (Vision 2020)​ was launched by the Hon. Minister for European Affairs and Equality, Dr Helena Dalli, on December 15, 2017.

The Integration Unit, later renamed as Intercultural and Anti-Racism Unit was set up in the first months of 2018. It takes care of the day-to-day implementation of the Strategy and the Action Plan. It serves as the main governmental coordinating body that imparts information, receives integration requests and follows migrants’ progress on their integration in Malta.​

Various initiatives


The I BELONG Programme

An integration introduction programme is an investment in the future, which both migrants and society in general need to undertake if we want successful integration. It gives migrants a start, enabling them to acquire vital skills. It is therefore well-worth the effort, and the return on investment is that newcomers to our country become better-equipped members of society.

The ‘I BELONG’ Programme is one of the main pillars of Malta’s Migrant Integration Strategy and Action Plan (Vision 2020). The programme consists of two main components: language tuition and cultural orientation. The focus of the former is on public and work situations where migrants are likely to require knowledge of Maltese and English, whereas the latter delves into the functioning and values of society, such as equality. The programme is also split into two stages:

  • Stage One, leading to the award of a Pre-Integration Certificate, consists of basic cultural and societal orientation, Maltese language and English language at MQF Level 1, being offered by MCAST. In the first year of the Unit (from its setting up in November 2018 until September 2019, there were almost 2,000 applicants for Stage One).
  • Stage Two fulfils some of the criteria required by applicants for the long-term residence in Malta. It consists of Maltese language at MQF Level 2 and a course of one-hundred hours having as its subject matter the social, economic, cultural and democratic history and environment of Malta. The course is being offered by the University of Malta.  ​

The Forum on Intercultural Affairs

This is another aspect of the Strategy which is gathering representatives from a range of migrant community organisations active in Malta. The forum, comprising of more than 25 representatives, meets regularly and advises the Government on migrants’ integration-related solutions, any necessary amendments to legislation and policy, and the implementation of services offered as well as any other matter related to the fostering of integration that is effectively mutually beneficial to migrants and residents. In conjunction with this, the Migrant Integration Information Sessions (MIIS) and the Turning The Tables (TTT) are being organised.

  • The Migrant Integration Information Sessions create a space for different migrant communities to gather together and discuss topics as proposed by them. Having one specific topic for each MIIS, the Intercultural and Anti-Racism Unit finds speakers to discuss the topic with migrants and other various stakeholders. The main aim is that integration is facilitated also through these information sessions for migrants.
  • The Turning The Tables conferences are aimed to empower migrant and refugee communities to strengthen their own capacity to enter policy and legislative process. The members of the TTT committee are responsible to lead the organisation of the conference including determining the topics to be discussed and inviting relevant stakeholders.​

The Local Integration Charter

Another important part of the Strategy is the Local Integration Charter. It is used as a tool for Local Councils to support each other in order to respond to the integration needs within Malta’s increasingly diverse communities by means of an action plan consisting of various targets. The main aim is that of integration of the individuals and communities at the local level as a basis for integration at national and EU level.

All of the 54 Local Councils in Malta have been contacted and 37 of them are already collaborating in the implementation of this charter. From these 37 Local Councils, the majority have signed an agreement with the Intercultural and Anti-racism Unit as a formal confirmation showing their adherence to the Local Integration Charter for the integration and involvement of migrants, and towards the promotion of diversity in an anti-racist community.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Integration

The Strategy also outlines the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Integration. This is a structure chaired by the Parliamentary Secretariat for Equality and Reforms on behalf of the Ministry for Justice, Equality and Governance, to coordinate the Government’s actions in the field of integration, draw general approaches and assist horizontal collaboration between ministries and their respective institutions. The Intercultural and Anti-Racism Unit, through the Inter-Ministerial Committee, is continuously assisting the participating ministries in developing their respective action plans while monitoring the progress of their implementation through regular meetings with the stakeholders.

“The IMCI will be strengthened and will hold frequent meetings to coordinate Government’s actions in the field of integration, draw general approaches, and assist horizontal collaboration between ministries and their respective institutions as necessary. The IMCI will also assist the participating ministries to develop their respective action plans and monitor the progress of their implementation.”​