The Malta Independent 4 June 2020, Thursday

Updated: Hundreds attend silent walk in solidarity with migrants at risk of losing protection status

Kevin Schembri Orland Sunday, 22 January 2017, 18:59 Last update: about 4 years ago

Hundreds attended a silent walk in solidarity with migrants this afternoon, starting at the Love sign in St Julian’s, ending in Balluta Bay.

The protest was over plans for the repatriation of migrants currently holding Temporary Humanitarian Protection New (THPn) status. The activity was also held in support of the nine Malian migrants who have spent the past two months in detention.

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A large number of those present held up placards which read “respect”, and a number of prominent politicians were in attendance, including PL Whip Godfrey Farrugia, Democratic Party Leader Marlene Farrugia, PN MP Karl Gouder and AD Leader Arnold Cassola.

Once the protesters arrived in Balluta, Dr Colin Calleja, who forms part of the Solidarity with Migrants group, read out the names of the nine Malian migrants being held in detention. He read from the President’s address at the Palace just a few days ago. “Treating each other with dignity is the only viable way forward to a sustainable and peaceful world.  Retention must replace detention, and our brothers and sisters must be allowed to continue working productively in Malta as they have been doing for years. We must stand collectively in solidarity against such rabid individualism.”

He also read a snippet from her speech n Republic Day. ““As a guardian of the Constitution, I believe that Malta should continue to host all those who live among us, or those who come to visit us, with the utmost love and respect. I am morally convinced that we should appreciate, and not condemn, persons who are helping to build our prosperity, who form part of our society, by sending them back.”

Ali Konate, a Malian migrant, expressed his joy at the support shown by the people who turned up for the walk. He said it is difficult for many migrants to see, after so many years, that their lives will be wiped away”.

He said that many of the migrants with THPn status are losing their minds, unable to concentrate on anything except the problem they currently face. “What will happen? Will we all end up sleeping under a bridge and die?”

“We ask that you help us and help government change their decision.”

Adrian Grima, a poet, also read out one of his poems which asked what would be left inside ourselves, as Maltese, if we allowed the deportation of these migrants.

Those carrying candles, which included PL Whip Godfrey Farrugia, placed them alongside the fountain in the Balluta park.

One migrant from the Congo, Austine Izeku, spoke with the Malta Independent and described the situation as a catastrophe.

PL Whip Godfrey Farrugia said that he supports the cause, and believes that there should be justice. He said that the people here are Maltese, just like you or I, as they form part of Maltese society.

“I understand the difficult position government finds itself in, having to act according to the rule of law, however there is such a thing called ‘politika hanina’. He said he believes a solution to make a difference can be found. He said he was referring, not just to African migrants, but also non-EU European country migrants who came with their children, and their children were not recognized by the Maltese government due to certain problems.

AD Chairperson Arnold Cassola said it was encouraging to see so many participate in the walk. He said that there were many of the migrants integrated into Maltese society and worked in Malta for many years. “They pay taxes, obey our laws, you cannot be without a heart. To see a man fall to his kneed begging before the President in 2017 is like we are in the medieval ages. The dignity of these people must be protected.”

PD Deputy Leader Anthony Buttigieg said that what is being proposed by government to these “ideal citizens, is inhuman. This has nothing to do with politics, I’m here as a Maltese person proud of my country and what is being proposed to be done to these people is shameful.”

Photos and videos by Jonathan Borg

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