Cultural diversity is listed as a cross-cutting objective of Malta’s Cultural Policy. The Policy states that the increasing diversity of cultures and identities which make up Maltese society should be viewed as a key contributor to Malta’s success in its social and economic interaction with the rest of globalised society. The Policy builds on the existence, recognition and promotion of diversity in all its forms, be it gender, age, social background, ethnicity, ability, religion, or sexual orientation, among others.
Research into cultural diversity in Malta is limited to census data and citizenship statistics on the Maltese and non-Maltese population. During 2010 an estimated 8 201 persons immigrated to Malta. Around 15% of these immigrants were returned migrants while more than three-quarters of the total immigrants originated from EU Member States. Nearly half of the immigrants were aged between 25 and 49. Total emigration during 2010 stood at 5 954. During the year under review, an estimated 1 863 Maltese nationals emigrated. Of all the emigrants, 47% were EU nationals, and another 21% were third country nationals. More than half the emigrants were aged between 25 and 49. The net migration for 2010 was estimated at 2 247. 24 boats arrived in Malta with 2 008 irregular immigrants in 2013, being the highest since 2008. This was an increase of 6.2% of irregular immigrants arriving by boat in 2013 when compared to the previous year.
The population of non-Maltese is composed of citizens from diverse countries, with a large presence of citizens from the UK, Italy, France, Germany, Serbia and Libya. Information about second and third generation migrants is currently not available. The Indian-Maltese French, German, Maltese-Australian and Italian communities are well established and active communities. New communities from African countries are slowly being created; however they face numerous challenges in integrating with other communities.
Recent large-scale irregular migration around the Mediterranean has provoked unprecedented anxiety among large sections of the Maltese citizenry. In 2001,the Ministry of Home Affairs created the position of Commissioner for Refugees, whose job it is to address the issue of illegal immigrants and others seeking asylum. Prior to the establishment of the Commissioner’s Office, the issue was being almost exclusively handled by Dar l-Emigrant (The Migrant’s Home), an extensive mission run by the Church. Another Church organisation, the Jesuit Refugee Centre, is another key stakeholder.
Records have shown that, over the past five years, more than 1 500 immigrants have made their way to Malta every year with a sharp decline in 2010 which registered 47 irregular immigrants. Considering Malta’s high density (1 700 people per square km), the issue has solicited a huge debate in the national media, with the Catholic Church (which established a Refugee Service run by Jesuits) insisting on its own definite stand against emerging racism. A Policy Paper, published in 2005 by the Ministry for Home Affairs, includes sections relating to the ethnic, religious and cultural rights of refugees and illegal immigrants whose application for status is under consideration.
Following local and international pressure, the government is actively implementing new strategies to address the cultural needs of the irregular migrant community.
In 2011 various Public organisations and NGOs devised numerous intercultural projects with the migrant community. Some notable examples are the project organised by SOS Malta, called Same Difference co-funded by the European Refugee Fund Annual Programme 2011. The project was an integration initiative that seeks to explore what makes people belong in a community and how they might belong more through the interaction of sharing food and experiences. Banana mandazi — made from a mix of bananas, eggs, flour and sugar – were among the interesting dishes offered up for tasting to the public at the Prime Minister’s Office in Valletta. Another project funded by the European Commission and the Council of Europe was the Diversity Blend Fest, a three day festival organised by Dingli Local Council, a small rural locality in Malta. The festival brought together music acts by popular Maltese performers and members of migrant communities.
In terms of National Legislation aimed at enhancing social cohesion and combating discrimination on issues of race and ethnic origin, thus indirectly also supporting intercultural dialogue, the Ministry for the Family and Social Solidarity has implemented the following legal frameworks and provisions:
- the enactment and implementation of LN 85 of 2007 entitled Equal Treatment of Persons Order. In view of this enactment, the remit of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality has been extended and provided with the powers to investigate complaints regarding discrimination on the grounds of racial and ethnic origin; and
- the enactment of Subsidiary Legislation 318.6 entitled Social Security (UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees) Order through Legal Notice 291 of 2001. Through this legal notice, the provisions of the Social Security Act have been extended to those persons who, in terms of the provisions of the Refugees Act, are acknowledged as refugees by the Commissioner for Refugees.
The Catholic community is predominantly the largest religious community in Malta. By Decree of the 5th March 2005, as proposed by the Diocesan Synod, a Commission for Culture was established within the Pastoral Secretariat of the Archdiocese of Malta. The idea behind the setting up of this Commission is that of helping the Christian community to safeguard every historic memory, in order to better understand the different aspects of the patrimony entrusted to this community.
The aims of the Commission are those of promoting culture of a Christian inspiration, building up documentation related to culture and keeping in contact with other entities of this nature, established by the ecclesiastical authorities.
In October 2009, the Archdiocese of Malta published a document for public consultation on the reform of external patron saint festivities in villages. The report states that the Church shouldered ultimate responsibility for the feasts, in the churches and outside. The Church document was aimed at improving the feasts by removing those elements which are against unity, religious respect and public morality. However, band clubs and committees who organise the external festivities criticised the report for its interference in festivities.
Relevant cultural policy actions:
- provide training to empower local authorities and community leaders to become catalysts for the cultural enrichment and fulfilment of the community at local level; and
- support and promote initiatives to promote diversity in cultural expression, intercultural dialogue and migrant integration.