Situated by the Mediterranean Sea, the island country of Malta has long been a safe haven for refugees. Although Malta is geographically and economically small, its location between Europe and North Africa makes it a logical first step for refugees seeking a new life in Europe. Discussed below are 10 facts about refugees in Malta.
Top 10 Facts about Refugees in Malta
- Malta created its Office of the Refugee Commissioner (ORC) in 2001 and it began functioning in 2002. Since then, the country has received more than 15,000 asylum seekers, primarily from the Middle East and Africa.
- Approximately 93% of migrants arriving in Malta by boat are asylum seekers, according to a report by the Human Rights Watch.
- Malta often acts as a temporary home for refugees. Less than 30% of the 19,000 Libyan refugees in Malta housed since 2002 remain there, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates. Refugees in Malta have a document that permits them to travel, and many choose to leave the country voluntarily.
- In order to keep families together, refugees’ dependent family members receive the same rights and benefits as the refugee.
- In 2011, Malta concluded the first European Refugee Fund project, which aimed to improve the information applicants receive about refugee rights and obligations. The project was such a success that the ORC hosted a conference in order to help the Maltese community get to know and connect with local refugees.
- Malta operates five mobile offices for refugee services in order to hold information sessions about the asylum procedure for third-country nationals or individuals who belong in neither the country of refuge nor the country they fled.
- Due to Malta’s location, many refugees end up in the country unintentionally. Malta is responsible for search and rescue in a large area of the Mediterranean Sea stretching from Tunisia to Crete, Greece and Sicily and Italy to Libya, and is, therefore, a popular transport hub for asylum seekers.
- Malta ranked 10th out of the countries with the most refugees per capita, with 14 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants, according to a UNHCR report.
- Malta’s fertility rate is below the EU average. However, the population has continued to grow in the last few years because of a large number of refugees and other immigrants.
- Only 9.2% of asylum seekers in Malta receive refugee status. The majority, 62.1%, receive subsidiary protection status. This allows them some, though not all, of the rights given to refugees.
Despite crowding and tight resources, refugees in Malta are working together to create a sense of community and home despite being so far away from their own.
– Alexi Worley