Migration: Malta should be given support - Angelina Jolie

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie this morning visited migrants staying at Lyster Barracks detention centre and the Hangar and tents open centre in Hal Far.

At Lyster Barracks she met women and couples who arrived recently in Malta, while at Hal Far she met families currently accommodated in tents. They include Somalis, Ethiopians and others from sub-Saharan Africa.

In the afternoon she flew to Lampedusa where she toured facilities accompanied by   UNHCR chief António Guterres.

Jolie is living in Malta for most of this month along with Brad Pitt, who is filming the zombie movie World War Z

“Malta has saved many lives, but it is the daily conditions on the ground that are of most concern,” Jolie said. “We’ve spent time today speaking with the government and will spend more time talking about how, together, we can make the conditions more humane, especially for the children.

“We’ve spoken about our shared concerns about making sure asylum claims are processed as quickly as possible so no-one is sitting in a prison-like situation and waiting on a decision about their status, “ she added.

Many of the people Jolie met told her that they had been working in Libya. One man referred to Libya as the heart of Africa, where they were able to work. “Now it is on fire and Africa is crying,” he said.

The migrants said they had never attempted to come to Europe before, they just wanted a place where they were safe and could work. But when the war escalated in Libya, they ran out of options. “They are not asking to go to any particular country, they just want to find safety to work, and to have freedom,” Jolie stressed.

Women thrust their hands through bars and shook hands with the actress. “I just want freedom,” they all said.

Jolie praised the AFM coastguard, saying they had “saved thousands of lives over the years and should be commended for that. Malta should now be given support from the international community to handle this continuing situation”.

In recent years more than 1100 beneficiaries of protection in Malta have benefited from solutions in the US and in several European countries. This year alone the US has accepted to resettle 500 individuals. European countries have also pledged support through offers to receive more than 300 people from Malta.

The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador also visited the Hal Far Hangar open centre where vulnerable asylum-seekers are living in tents inside an old aircraft hangar while their claims are assessed. The people she met there said living conditions were difficult and they were concerned about fuel-dust on the ground and rats chewing their tents.

The UNHCR said that a million people have left Libya since upheaval started there. More than 16,000 people, including refugees and asylum-seekers, have crossed the Mediterranean from Libya on overcrowded boats. More than 1500 people have arrived in Malta.

"Sadly an equal number have lost their lives at sea," the organisation said.

So far more than 400 of the new asylum claims have been processed by the Office of the Refugee Commissioner in Malta. But around 900 people remain in detention in Lyster and Safi Barracks. 

The Sunday Times next Sunday will carry an exclusive interview with Angelina Jolie.


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