Following public uproar over an incident in which a Maltese contractor dumped a Gambian man named Lamin Jaiteh on the side of the road after he was grievously injured on a construction site, at least 200 migrants gathered in Valletta in protest earlier on Monday.
The protest, which began in front of Parliament and culminated in a march towards the office of Home Affairs minister Byron Camilleri, saw hundreds of protesters bearing placards, drums and whistles chanting “enough is enough, justice must be done” as migrants from different countries united to protest for justice for Jaiteh.
When the migrants presented their demands to the home affairs ministry, they were not allowed to enter the premises. Instead, they were asked to slide the envelope underneath the door and were not granted any kind of audience with the minister or any of his representatives.
“These demonstrations will not stop up until we get the stability we want from the government. We are fine with paying taxes but we want the basic rights our taxes should give us,” one of the speakers at the protest, Hamza Alassa, said.
“We want justice for our brothers who have died. We are the people cleaning the streets, doing all the hard jobs, and all we want are our basic rights,” Alassa added.
The migrants presented a list of demands largely centred around the legal limbo which most migrants end up being in if their attempts at obtaining full residency status are denied.
“We need our basic rights, that’s all we came for this morning,” Philip Nicholas Ahmed said during his speech.
Ahmed’s sentiment was further echoed by Joy Edokpolor, who stated that “without documents, our children do not have rights in Malta, we don’t have rights in Malta”.
“Our husbands, our wives, we’re all crying, because we don’t have anybody to cry to or to listen to us when we speak our minds. We just kept to our place, the authorities do not care what we do. We are here to fight for our rights, we need freedom!” Edokpolor said.
The migrants’ community voiced its anger at how many people end up having to resort to working off the books in the same way Jaiteh had been working for J&G Contractors. The director of the company, Glenn Farrugia, is currently being charged in court with around 20 charges to his name.
The demands include increased efforts to ensure that migrants fully understand their rights and obligations in Malta’s legal system, the cessation of the application process for the Specific Residency Authorisation policy, and a demand to the Maltese government to make the amount of tax revenue generated by migrants working in Malta known to the public.
The demands also focused on the equally unclear legal limbo migrants’ children face, with virtually all of the speakers referring to specific examples in which migrants’ children were not given identity papers that allow them to be treated as other citizens would be.
“Without identity documents, our children are denied the rights they learn about when they go to school,” Lamin Touray, another one of the speakers, said in his address.
The migrants’ community also voiced its anger over how Identity Malta treats applicants, alleging that they face discriminatory treatment and that many are afraid of as much as walking through the doors of their offices, demanding that the government address the issue by retraining the staff in terms of cultural sensitivity.