On 20th June, UNHCR Malta organised an event to mark World Refugee Day at the San Anton Palace garden, in collaboration with the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society.
© UNHCR/Rahma Henchiri
On World Refugee Day 2018, we gathered together with local NGOs, embassies, and government institutions who work to improve the lives of those who were forced to flee their homes.
It was a pleasure to welcome at the event representatives of the determined refugee and migrant-led organisations who support vulnerable people in their communities in many ways, as they re-build their lives in Malta. These include the Sudanese Migrant Association, Migrant Women Association Malta, the Somali Community in Malta, the Eritrean Community, Spark15, LIBICO, and more.
Set in the beautiful gardens of the San Anton Palace, we had the honour of starting with an opening address by H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Malta, who spoke of the bravery of refugees, and emphasised the importance of coming together with people of different backgrounds who “all share values of respect and solidarity.”
Mr. Kahin Ismail, representative for UNHCR in Malta, commended the changing attitude towards integration of refugees and migrants in Malta: “Integration and social inclusion are no longer taboo subjects. Malta is recognising the need for a greater debate on social inclusion. It recognises that culture and identity are not fixed points – unchanged – but quite the opposite – identity is continuously evolving.” In fact, we must always remember the human stories behind the figures that are reported in the news.
“Global displacement today is often described with large numbers and statistics. However we should not forget that behind these vast numbers lie personal accounts of hardship, separation and loss; of life-threatening journeys in search of safety” – Kahin Ismail
Dr. Martine Cassar, Refugee Commissioner, then asked guests to put themselves in the shoes of those feeling war and persecution: “It takes an incredible amount of courage to travel to an unknown destination, and simply set up a new life, however these people do exactly that. I believe that at times, we forget what migration really entails; the human suffering, the journey, the courage and resilience.”
This was followed by two heartfelt speeches by Hounida Erghei from Libya and Abdishakur Mohamed Ahmed from Somalia. As people with international protection in Malta, they shared their perspective on social inclusion from first-hand experience.
“There is more power in unity than division. Hence we must always remain united in spite of all our social, linguistic and religious differences”, said Hounida. She is a founding member of LIBICO, a community organisation in Malta which aims to unite the Libyan diaspora in Malta through educational, social and cultural activities.
Our final speaker, Abdishakur Mohamed Ahmed, lives in Gozo. Together with five others, he is a Refugee Focal Point; a volunteer trained by UNHCR to provide integration-related information to the refugee community in Gozo. Abdishakur spoke of how he is now studying IT at MCAST (Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology), preparing for his future career.
Despite difficulties, he feels that a positive attitude, education and social inclusion will lead to a brighter future for him and his community. “After years of facing problems… now I feel I am safe.”
Another highlight of the evening were the desserts prepared by Migrant Women Association Malta (MWAM). As a NGO led by migrant women, MWAM aims to promote autonomy among refugee and migrant women in Malta, especially by helping them to gain access to the job market, and developing their skills. One of their main projects is SAHA! – a food truck which is soon to be launched. We asked chefs Naima, Khadija and Dounia to prepare a selection of sweets from Libya, Syria, and Morocco, and they were a delicious end to a wonderful evening.
There are currently some 68.5 forcibly displaced people in the world, including 25.4 million refugees. World Refugee Day serves as an important reminder to continually honour the courage of those forced to flee their homes. UNHCR Malta will continue to support the refugees in our community in Malta and Gozo. Join us as we stand #WithRefugees.
Some photos from WRD 2018: