Refugees in Gozo volunteer to support their community
UNHCR Malta has been working with and training a group of refugees living in Gozo. Their role is to serve as focal points for integration–related information within their respective communities.
There are a number of refugees (over 250) currently living in Gozo. To engage with this population, UNHCR visits Gozo regularly. One of the ways UNHCR connects with the community is through ‘Outreach’ sessions, which provide an opportunity for refugees to voice their concerns and ask for information. Apart from this, UNHCR conducts visits to refugees’ homes, and organises refugee consultation group meetings on specific issues.
UNHCR Malta has also been working with and training a group of refugees living in Gozo. Their role is to serve as focal points for integration–related information within their respective communities. The RFPs (Refugee Focal Points) participate in this project and support their community on a voluntary basis, alongside their work or studies.
Outreach has always involved stakeholders who engage with refugees regularly, so as part of their training, the RFPs expressed the need to meet more stakeholders and service-providers working on the island, such as the Housing Authority, Jobsplus, the Social Work Unit as well as the Gozo LEAP Centre and MCAST Gozo Campus. The RFPs have met with staff members of some of these institutions, who provided information on available services and programmes. This is insight that they can pass on to the rest of the community.
It is also clear that in Gozo, like in Malta, both refugees and locals encounter problems that need to be addressed by providing more opportunities for interaction and integration, and by ensuring that refugees are being given access to services that will help them to rebuild their lives.
There are currently five young men from Somalia who have been provided with RFP training in Gozo. The RFPs in Gozo are studying, working, or both, so it is in their free time that they volunteer to provide support to other refugees in Gozo. This support may be anything from providing information about educational opportunities, to practical assistance.
The RFPs have been gaining support. In fact on 7th August 2018, the RFPs had the honour of a private meeting with H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Malta. Her Excellency expressed her commitment to refugees and migrants and the importance of the RFPs role in Gozo. A meeting with Her Excellency and the wider refugee community in Gozo is being planned for later in 2018.
The RFP model is something that other UNHCR operations are looking to replicate, so in summer 2018 a colleague from UNHCR Cyprus joined UNHCR Malta for a meeting with the RFPs. UNHCR Cyprus is in the process of rolling out a similar model to strengthen community-based protection programmes, so the RFPs in Gozo provided valuable insight on their experiences in this role.
The Durable Solutions unit at UNHCR Malta also organised a team-building day for the RFPs at Dreams of Horses Farm in Xaghra, Gozo. The owner, Victor, warmly welcomed the team and provided a guided tour around the farm and the animals. Many of the horses at the farm have been rescued by Victor, who shared his extensive knowledge of horsemanship. Following an introductory safety workshop, the RFPs had several activities with the horses. The team also had ample time to pet and feed the horses.
Through regular activities and engagement with local stakeholders, UNHCR and the Refugee Focal Points will work together to provide support and improve the integration opportunities of persons of concern living in Gozo.
Are you interested in other activities related to integration? Find out more about Durable Solutions – Integration Activities at UNHCR Malta.
For more information about refugees in Gozo, read Gozo – the Way Forward, a report based on UNHCR outreach sessions in Gozo.