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"We want Maltese to understand us" - refugees
Malta Star
Saturday, March 15, 2008
“We left our countries because the situation there was very difficult. Many still have their families, their wives and their children there. It is not easy to be separated from the persons you love and from your country. So what we ask Maltese people is for more understanding of our situation. We do not want to be a burden on anyone.”
This is the message of Adam, a refugee from Somalia, who arrived in Malta a few years ago, and who on Saturday morning joined other asylum seekers currently on the island to appeal to the Maltese public not to be overwhelmed by racism. “What we want is to have a normal life,” Adam said, but people have to know us and have to get the right information about us, because racism and discrimination are the result of a lack of information about who we are, and why we found ourselves here.”
These immigrants got their chance to speak out thanks to the youths at Moviment Graffitti, who organised a press conference in Valletta to give these foreigners living in Malta a chance to get their message through to the Maltese people. The event is one of the organisation’s activities for the European Action Week Against Racism.  

“The aim of this activity is not to accuse anyone of being racist,” said Andre Callus, a spokesperson for Graffitti. “We acknowledge that racism is increasingly becoming a problem in our country, but we think that what we really need is to find the causes that lead to racism. We are convinced that a political discourse which makes migration seem a national emergency, or a national threat, together with a detention system which criminalises the migrants in the eyes of the Maltese, contributes in creating an atmosphere of tension, and therefore a fertile breeding ground for racism,”

Siem, explained that he left his home in Eritrea in 2004, and entered Sudan. In Eritria, where he worked for a private newspaper, he was imprisoned for participating in a protest against forced labour. This is why he had to leave the country.
“In Sudan it is very difficult to get protection, so I decided to continue my way to Europe by crossing the Sahara desert in very difficult conditions. Then I entered Libya.The situation here is terrible for us. We face the continuous risk of imprisonment. We also suffer heavy discrimination because of our religion and colour. Prisons in Libya are like concentration camps. I was imprisoned for one month. Of course in Libya there is no chance to seek protection. So the only way to get meaning in my life was to cross the Mediterranean and reach Europe.
When we arrived in Malta what we faced was detention. Life in detention is very hard. For example some live in tents, with few blankets, and when winter comes it becomes incredibly hard. Although many of us got protection in Malta, to build a life here is not easy. 
I also have my wife in Sudan and my child in Eritrea. With no idea of where and when you will see your family again, everything becomes harder.”
Another immigrant, Hafiz, from Sudan, told journalists that not all Maltese treat them badly. Yet, others are afraid of black people, “and this leads to discrimination and racism, which we have to face everyday; when we take the bus, when we search for an apartment to rent, or when we seek employment.”

He urged Maltese to stop being unfair with them. “The fact that many of us are black, or that we come from other countries, does not make us dangerous. In Malta there are many other type of migrants living here who, for example, come from other European countries. But I do not think that they experience the same situation as we do, just because their skin colour is not black. We came here because in our countries there are problems on which we have no control. We did not come here with any bad intentions. We were forced to leave our country.”
Moviment Graffitti is therefore concerned about the ongoing building of a “Fortress Europe”, where the entry of immigrants is stopped at all costs. It is important to keep in mind that it was this same system that created illegal migration, because as European countries began to close their borders the legal channels for migration became very limited.
The Dublin Convention, which says that asylum-seekers have to stay in the first European country that they reach, is also part of this “Fortress Europe”, as it aims to keep immigrants at the periphery of Europe.
“Frontex is the most recent step in the strengthening of the “Fortress Europe”. It is clear that the aim of this mission is to send migrants back to Libya, irrelevant of the fact that here they cannot apply for protection and that they can therefore be sent back to countries where they will face persecution. Europe also seems to turn a blind eye to the continuous harassment, even by the Libyan institutions, of migrants in this country.”
Therefore Moviment Graffitti insisted on the need of a Europe of solidarity, and not a Europe which blames its problems on the immigrants; a Europe which respects human rights and not a Europe which is ready to sacrifice the life of migrants for political opportunism. “Only then we can say that there is a Europe which is truly committed against any form of racism and discrimination.”
Source: Malta Star, Mar 15, 2008