Written by Zvezda Vankova, Policy Analyst, Migration Policy Group
On 13th June the human rights organisation Aditus released a report with “concrete recommendations aimed at national policymakers on how to maximise the success of the various stages of third country nationals’ integration process in Malta”. Using Malta’s scores on MIPEX as its starting point, consultations were organised and 60 recommendations developed on every MIPEX strand with different national stakeholders participating in the Malta Integration Network, as well as international experts, such as MPG’s director Jan Niessen.
With an overall score of 37 points in MIPEX III, Malta is far behind most countries of immigration in developing an integration policy. According to our prospective impact assessment, if the government follows the recommendations for a National Integration Policy in Malta, the policies of Malta would become halfway favourable for immigrant integration (+22 points). Malta would score slightly above the EU 27 average with an overall score of 59 points, similar to countries like Luxembourg and Germany, but still below the highest-scoring new countries of immigration, such as Portugal and Finland.
The proposed changes would lead to much stronger anti-discrimination laws (70 points on AD strand), as in several new countries of immigration, such as Hungary and Bulgaria. Like in most new countries of immigration in Southern Europe, the changes would also facilitate family reunion (76 points on FR strand). If the government implements the recommendations for a National Integration Policy in Malta, immigrants would benefit from more opportunities for political participation, as in some new leading countries of immigration such as Portugal and Spain. However, they will remain only halfway favourable for immigrant integration (52 points). If the proposed changes are introduced, policies on education would still create as many obstacles as opportunities for migrant pupils (49 points). Few minor changes are proposed regarding policies on labour market mobility and access to nationality. Therefore access to nationality would remain slightly unfavourable (39 points).
Among the recommendations in the seven MIPEX policy strands, the report highlights the following:
– The need for one harmonised ‘equality act’ and one equality body where all potential victims of discrimination can file a complaint (see UK, Ireland, France, and Sweden);
– Equal access to workers’ rights and general support for newly arrived TCNs and their families, including basic information on employment and society in Malta (see several new countries of immigration such as Portugal and Spain);
– Expand the definition of “family” and establish a formal procedure for autonomous residence permit (see also Portugal and Spain);
– Require teachers to be trained on immigrant pupils’ specific needs and bring targeted Maltese and English language support and the opportunity to study immigrants’ languages and cultures into the national curriculum (see Portugal, the Nordic countries, and the UK);
– Grant the rights to vote and stand in local elections to all migrant residents and remove any obstacles to civic and political participation (see half of the EU Member States including several new countries of immigration, such as Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, Hungary, and Slovakia);
– Lower the thresholds for stable and regular resources required for applicants for long-term residence permits (see Portugal and Spain);
– Limit the discretion in naturalisation procedures by introducing clear time limits and the right to a reasoned decision and right to independent appeal (as in most EU Member States).
Unfortunately, President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca and Helena Dalli, Minister for Social Dialogue and Civil Liberties have commented on one of the recommendations: local voting rights. They stressed that this was not a priority of the current government and did not react to the rest of the report’s recommendations.
The politician Michael Falzon commented that “although giving all non-EU third country nationals the right to vote in local elections might be considered a premature step at this point of history, surely this issue must be faced in the future, as otherwise we cannot be serious in expecting these people to integrate in society.”