Racism in Malta: “Not every black skin is a migrant or coming to steal a job, attack, or convert the country. We need education.”

Regine Nguini Psaila

Although growing up in Malta, Ma’ali and Omar face the plight of several other ethnic minorities. Despite the government’s 2017 pledge for a “cosmopolitan Malta”, the country still suffers from an island mentality.

With the rising population of migrants, competition remains rife in terms of access, with the Maltese constantly competing for the same jobs, land and accommodation as migrants.

“Now there are more people. There’s more demand. There is more competition for fewer jobs, lodging, food, living, and renting.

“Some people see migrants as a burden for the country, a threat to their religion or safety because we’re overcrowded with too many people taking jobs. Unfortunately, Malta is still taking a lot of migrants, and that is creating tension,” says Ma’ali.

Migrants in Malta form over 26.5% of the island’s workforce despite being only 2.5% of its population. While the streets of Malta remain multicultural, the recurring rhetoric of ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ bleeds into society.

Translation: They come to Malta to profit from some compensation. Why didn’t he stay in his country? Then nothing would have happened to him. [He wouldn’t have been injured].

“Because I speak the language fluently and I live here. People are never sure what I am,” says Ma’ali.

“There is a problem with generalisation. Not every black skin is a migrant or coming to steal a job, attack or convert the country. We need education,” she adds.

In 2021 the government proposed its first anti-racism strategy. With it came consultations into policing, housing discrimination, preconceptions of patriotism and tackling underreporting. This is the first governmental step towards integration in Malta’s society.

“We have real issues with racism and xenophobia in Malta. We’ve witnessed it in terms of microaggressions on a daily basis. Much more worrying is the institutionalised racism. And despite recent declarations, including the anti-racism strategy, that expressed a commitment to address institutionalised racism, very little is actually being done,” says Dr Maria Pisani, Senior Lecturer in Youth & Community Studies at L-Università ta’ Malta.

While the initiative launched only a year ago, minorities such as Omar, Ma’ali and Regine still face racism daily with little to no change. They argue the problem of racism within Malta is getting worse, not better.

“I think we need time. By time, society naturally is going to continue changing. Maybe not my generation, but the next, we need to start accepting Malteseness as being diverse. We cannot put Malteseness in one profile and exclude everyone who does not fit,” says Omar.

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