From different pasts to a shared future
World Refugee Day, which was marked yesterday, aims to highlight the plight of people all over the world who are forced to flee their homes fearing persecution.
This year’s commemoration found this tiny, centrally-located island preoccupied about a potentially very serious new wave of Mediterranean boat people, knocking louder on the doors of the EU and individual European countries.
Such a situation further raises the hope that there will be more solidarity in burden responsibility sharing vis-à-vis people in need of international protection. It also calls for stronger EU cooperation with the new Libyan government in its efforts to deal with the migration phenomenon over its borders.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees must bolster its operational presence in Libya too.
At the same time, Malta is focusing all the more on seeing that its reception and detention facilities provide the best possible dignified welcome and stay for migrants arriving here despite its limitations and rising pressures. he issue of integration also needs to be addressed through enhanced policies and action.
The sentiment of the Maltese community, as a whole, is in favour of standing up for people in need of protection and help. Yet, when it comes to discussing how the country should respond to the migration phenomenon, different perspectives crop up, which, sometimes, are far from encouraging.
A recent EU-wide survey, for instance, indicated that 56 per cent of Maltese respondents admitted that migrants were not integrating in society because they were being discriminated against.
There are other reasons behind the lack of integration, including the undeniable fact that the large majority of the migrants reaching Malta consider their stay here only as a stepping stone towards their European or American dream.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that many members of today’s community fail to understand the benefits of immigration. Indeed, when asked whether immigration enriched Malta’s economy and cultural diversity, 55 per cent of the 500 respondents in the survey said they did not, though 32 per cent did recognise the benefits of migration.
Various efforts are already in hand to address misconceptions related to integration and to show the benefits of a properly organised and coordinated policy. Nonetheless, at school level, where the new generations are meant to also receive a good formation on how to truly live certain basic values, such as the respect for the rights and dignity of other people, whoever they may be and whatever their culture or belief, there seems to be a need of an urgent review.
One wake-up call in this direction emerged during a seminar aimed at enhancing school leaders’ cultural sensitivity held recently by the Malta Society for Education, Administration and Management. The event recognised that children from different cultures through mixed marriages, foreign adoption and irregular immigration have become a permanent feature of Maltese schools.
A teacher who researched the ethnic composition of classrooms and the perceptions of multi-ethnic students on aspects of the Maltese educational system argued that there is need for a major rethinking of the very core values upon which Malta’s schools are built.
An infusion of multiculturalism into the fabric of the schools and the rethinking of the content and process of curriculum and instruction were also required, the study concluded.
Such a call deserves immediate attention if this country wants its future adults to understand that, whatever the past of the people they meet in their life, they can always share the future with them.