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Images and Notes from a Fieldwork Visit to Malta

Slide 1

  • On 13 September 2015, amid the on-going ‘Mediterranean migration crisis’, I visited Malta to help set-up fieldwork interviews as part of the ESRC-funded project ‘Crossing the Mediterranean Sea by Boat’.
  • These images and notes offer some brief, preliminary, and occasionally personal reflections on aspects of my two-day trip largely by way of a commentary provoked in reaction to several photos taken on my iPhone while I visited different parts of the island.
  • To offer some background context to the visit it might be helpful to note that Malta is the EU’s most southerly country and since 2002 more than 19,000 migrants and refugees have reached the island by boat.
  • In 2012 2,080 people applied for asylum (60% of applicants from Somalia; 21% from Eritrea; 7% from Syria), which was the highest proportion of asylum claims in the EU (4.9 applicants per 1,000 inhabitants) (Malta’s population is 423,000) (UNHCR 2013). However, in the context of the 2015 ‘crisis’, according to the UNCHR only 91 refugees and migrants arrived ‘irregularly’ by boat in Malta in the first six months – as compared with 54,000 in Italy, 48,000 in Greece, and 920 in Spain (UNHCR 2015).
  • On arrival, the Maltese authorities apply a form of mandatory detention – unique among EU countries – for up to 6 months, which is triggered by a removal order issued to all ‘irregular’ migrants. The period of detention can be extended for a period of up to 18 months under the EU Returns Directive.
  • The last time I had visited Malta was in May 2015 when I presented the President an Honorary Professorship of the University of Warwick at Verdala Palace. This time I was to see an altogether different side to the island and to better appreciate that, despite its size as one of the smallest sovereign nation-states, there are many Maltas.