Refugee Status

The 1951 Geneva Convention defines a refugee as: “‘a person who, owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence, as a result of such events is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it’.”

Malta has transposed this definition into its Refugees Act of 2001.

According to Act 14 of Legal Notice 243 of 2008 a refugee is entitled:

  • To remain in Malta with freedom of movement
  • Be granted, as soon as possible, personal documents, including a residence permit for a period of three years, which shall be renewable
  • Be given a Convention Travel Document entitling him to leave and return to Malta without the need of a visa (unless he is in custody awaiting judicial proceedings for the commission of a criminal offence, or is serving a term of imprisonment)
  • To have access to employment, social welfare, appropriate accommodation, integration programs, state education and training.
  • To receive state medical care especially in the case of vulnerable groups of persons. Dependant members of the family of a person granted refugee status, if they are in Malta at the time of the decision or if they join him in Malta, enjoy the same rights and benefits as the refugee so that family unity may be maintained.

For more information see also Ministry for Justice and Home Affairs


Compulsory free state education up to the age of 16.

May apply to enrol in tertiary education. Overseas qualifications may be recognised, as long as their qualifications are of comparable standard to those required by the University of Malta. Each application is treated on its own merits.


Have access to free accommodation at Open Centres.

Separate open centres are available for unaccompanied minors, vulnerable people, women and families.

Residence permit at open centres must be renewed periodically. Centres vary in terms of how often they require renewal (some as short as 3 months). Renewal is typically automatic as long as have been signing in regularly at centre.

If leave open centre to live independently, are not guaranteed that will be able to return to live in the open centre.

Are entitled to apply to the Maltese Housing Authority program for alternative accommodation known as “Government Units for Rent”, provided have been residing in Malta for 12 months and have limited income and assets.


Have access to state medical services free of charge.


May access the labour market but require work permit to work legally. To acquire work permit, must apply to Jobsplus.

Are eligible for all positions.

Have access to benefits (including employment insurance and pension).

Have access to employment training programs at Jobsplus.

Financial Assistance

Have access to the Maltese social assistance program. Are entitled to approximately €340/month when  registering for unemployment benefits, the same as Maltese people. Are not required to be registered at the open centres to receive assistance. However, must sign in at employment office 3 times per week.

Family Reunification

May apply for family reunification.

According to law, the applicant must be holding a residence permit valid for a minimum period of one year to apply, and must be living in Malta for two years before being joined by their family members (except in special circumstances).

As well, according to law, the applicant must provide documents attesting to the family relationship, and must demonstrate that they have independent accommodation and will be able to support themselves and their family members who arrive in Malta.

Freedom of movement/ Detention

Released from detention when decision granting protected status is issued by the authorities.

Following release, have complete freedom of movement.

Access to information

Upon granting of protection, are provided by RefCom with a copy of Article 14 of the Procedural Standards Regulations, which states the legal rights and obligations of those with protection.

When are relocated to the open centres, a group meeting is held by AWAS for all new arrivals where they are informed, with the assistance of an interpreter, of the rights and obligations associated with being granted protection and living in the open centres. A pamphlet containing information on the basic rights and obligations, including maps of the locations of various relevant offices, is provided by AWAS. All residents at the centres are also required by AWAS to agree to a standard “service agreement” which outlines the rights and obligations associated with living at the centres. [note: the information above relates to Hal-Far open centre; processes at other centres have not been confirmed]

According to the Maltese Refugees Act all refugees have access to UNHCR for information and guidance.

Travel Document

Have the right to be issued a Convention travel document.

Vulnerable Persons

AWAS is responsible for addressing the needs of vulnerables in the asylum procedure.

Once released from detention such individuals will be admitted into an open centre.

There are some open centres designed specifically for vulnerable persons, although capacity might be limited.

Unaccompanied children

AWAS is responsible for addressing the identification and support of unaccompanied children in the asylum procedure.

Once released from detention, the minors will be admitted into an open centre. There are open centres designed specifically for unaccompanied minors. A legal guardian, who is employed at the open centre where the minors are placed, will be appointed to care for the minors.

Minors must attend school up to the age of 16. Once they are over 16 they are legally entitled to work.

Financial assistance of 7?/week is provided to the minors, with a lump sum of around ?70 upon entering the residential home.

Naturalization/ citizenship

Once have lived in Malta for ten years, may apply for citizenship. The government has the discretion to decide whether to grant citizenship, also based on whether the applicant has become self-sufficient.

Children born in Malta are not granted citizenship, but may apply for citizenship like their parents. There is no comprehensive integration policy in effect in Malta at this time.


Have access to resettlement, although are not automatically entitled to be submitted for resettlement.

Removal and deportation

Cannot be removed.

The above is a summary developed by UNHCR Malta. Relevant government authorities should be consulted for further details regarding rights and responsibilities.