17 September 2014

Racism Still a reality in housing market

 - Tuesday, 08 November 2011, 00:00

by John Cordina

Ethnic minorities in Malta still face frequent discrimination when looking for a place to rent, the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality fears. An advert recently featured online is just one example. A fully equipped two-bedroomed apartment in Qawra is available for €300 a month. But there’s a catch: “No arabs, blacks or young boys.”

The advert appeared on the website of local real estate company Simon Estates earlier this month. Its offensive – and illegal – wording was quickly spotted by members of the public, and the advert soon started to make the rounds on Facebook.

Complaints were also made to the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality, a Commission spokesman confirmed when asked about the advert.

The text was hastily removed after it caught people’s attention, before reappearing with the discriminatory disclaimer removed. Questions sent to Simon Estates were acknowledged but not replied to by the time of going to print.

The NCPE spokesman also confirmed that such advertising is illegal, as laid down in a legal notice issued just four years ago. Legal Notice 85 of 2007 – which amends the European Union Act – states that “it shall not be lawful for persons to publish or display, or cause to be published or displayed, any advertisement which promotes discrimination or which is discriminatory or which might reasonably be understood as indicating an intention to discriminate”.

The legal notice also establishes that “no person, establishment or entity, whether in the private or public sector and including public bodies, shall discriminate against any other person in relation to access to and supply of goods and services which are available to the public, including housing.”

The National Commission for the Promotion of Equality has received three complaints of racial or ethnic discrimination relating to housing since 2007. In such cases, an investigation is started with the complainant’s consent, and complainants are helped with filling out complaint forms and with compiling supporting evidence.

In one such case, an Egyptian professional on a working assignment in Malta complained of racial harassment when the owner of the leased residence he was staying at sought his removal from the premises. While the owner insisted that he was acting correctly since the complainant was residing in the premises abusively, the NCPE concluded that racial harassment had occurred since the owner had used pejorative language in relation to the complainant’s ethnicity.

The actual complaints may be few, but the NCPE believes that incidents of racial discrimination in housing are far more commonplace. The NCPE spokesman said that a study it published last year as part of an EU co-funded project indicated that “racial discrimination is common when looking for a place to rent or buy”.

The study showed that most respondents who had faced ethnic or racial discrimination had been discriminated against in the sphere of accommodation, with all complaints concerning the potential landlord.

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