Malta, the EU’s smallest and most densely populated country, has fewer foreigners (4.4%) than average (6.4%). Most came for work, family or tax reasons from the EU, the Commonwealth, Serbia and the former USSR.

Malta is only beginning to address immigration and asylum. 2007 and 2008 saw more people arriving on the island than leaving. Most newcomers (65% in 2009) fleeing Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan successfully applied for asylum, although are often called illegal migrants in fierce public debates. Since March 2009, hardly any even reach Malta—or the continent—following Italy’s controversial ‘pushback’ policy with Libya. More are also leaving as Malta seeks to resettle or relocate them elsewhere. Those who stay are seeing limited integration programmes, often EU funded.

Conditions would become more favourable for integration if Malta’s policies (currently 28th of 31 MIPEX countries) improved to Europe’s average. Malta usually makes progress when it follows EU laws and trends. All residents have better protection from discrimination (+9). However, many non-EU residents are now denied equal access to the labour market. Eventually they can become longterm residents but few become Maltese citizens.

Timeline - What's Changed

+9 April 2007
Equal Treatment of Persons Order.
-2 June 2007
Family reunion
Family Reunification Regulations.
-5 June 2007
Labour market mobility
Family Reunification Regulations.
0 July 2007
Access to nationality
Amendments to Citizenship Act modify accessing nationality for spouses of nationals.
+9 March 2010
Anti Discrimination
Public Administration Act: public bodies must promote equality.

Key Findings

  • Malta behind most countries of immigration in improving integration policy.
  • Anti-discrimination law improved, but still one of weakest in Europe.
  • Many Non-EU nationals with right to live in Malta do not have equal right to work.
  • Becoming long-term resident provides best integration opportunities and should be encouraged.
  • Some of longest waits for family reunion.
  • Political opportunities closed to non-EU residents.
  • Education policy leaves schools some of the least prepared in Europe for migrant children.
  • One of most exclusionary naturalisation policies in Europe.

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

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    Labour market access

    Malta is one of the few countries to use EU law (2003/86/EC) to restrict family members’ access to employment or self-employment. As of 2007, they need to pass a labour market assessment in their 1st year and may need an employment licence. A temporary worker also needs one. The Minister has full discretion to cancel or change the licence at any time. Malta also restricts access to public employment services and unemployment benefits, which only occurs in CY, LV and SK.

    Non-EU nationals who obtained the right to reside in Malta would be able to contribute to its economy, if the authorities gave them equal access (see box). The private sector, self-employment and public sector are legally open to support their integration. Migrants and Maltese nationals enjoy the same working conditions and access to trade unions. Unlike in Malta, most non-EU workers and families have immediate equal access to the labour market in two thirds of the 31 MIPEX countries. Many of these are new countries benefiting from labour migration (e.g. GR, PT, ES) as well as Central European countries developing their first integration strategies (e.g. HU, PL).

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    Basic access in new countries of immigration

    Malta has not used the opportunities for implementing EU law (2003/86/ EC) to improve its family reunion policies, unlike other new countries of immigration. 17 of the 31 countries include dependent family members such as parents or adult children. Recently, LU reduced the residence period to 1 year, which is standard in the majority of EU Member States. Families have also gained equal rights to work (GR, ES). Thanks to new 6-month caps on the procedure in HU and ES, families are not kept apart longer than necessary.

    Malta’s non-EU residents have some of the worst opportunities in Europe to integrate with their families (see box). The few families that can be reunited will be relatively secure in their future together in Malta, especially compared to other low-scoring countries. But to reach that point, they must overcome major hurdles in basic access and limited rights. The residence period is 2 years, which is much longer than in 22 other countries. Sponsors can only reunite with their nuclear family. Reunited families have equal access to education and social benefits, but not work (see earlier section). They are not just made economically dependent on their sponsors, but they also obtain autonomous status with great difficulty.

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    Intercultural education: a start

    ’Democracy and Values Education’ is part of the National Minimum Curriculum, at least on paper, while immigrant languages and cultures are not. Valuing social diversity is one of its broad core values, along with considering change in the community, human rights and responsibilities, and promoting active global citizenship. In Malta, the Ministry of Education has a post for visiting and supporting schools to implement intercultural education through, for instance, some preservice courses.

    Since Malta has just started to adapt its schools to diversity, its policies are among the least favourable in Europe for migrant pupils. All children, regardless of their status, have the implicit right to an education, at least until age 18 but not until university. Despite some help for disadvantaged students, Malta does not target specific needs of newcomers in its policies. Teachers may receive some pre-service training on these needs, but schools are not guaranteed extra teachers, funding or language support for each newcomer. Malta is one of 5 countries without any policy on new opportunities such as immigrant children’s languages in mainstream schools. At least intercultural education is slightly more favourable (see box).

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    Malta has not progressed on political participation like neighbouring new immigration countries: IT, PT, ES and recently GR. It more resembles CY or Baltic and Central European countries. Non-EU residents still cannot participate in most parts of the public debate. They can join political parties, work as journalists and form associations. But in the absence of structural support for associations or consultative bodies of immigrants, new communities find it hard to reach politicians and the public. Moreover, Malta’s old policy on reciprocal local voting rights for Council of Europe countries is ineffective and less relevant for today’s immigrant population. Unlike ES, Malta (and CZ) has not tried to sign reciprocity agreements.

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    Only the minimum?

    Non-EU residents who want to settle in Malta go through a similar procedure as in most European countries because government adopted the minimum EU requirements. The procedure would become less favourable for integration if authorities add new conditions that discourage immigrants from succeeding or even trying. At EU level, the Maltese government refused to extend EC long-term residence to beneficiaries of international protection, even when all other delegations agreed to this in November 2008. Under the new Lisbon Treaty, unanimity is no longer necessary.

    Becoming a long-term resident in Malta gives non-EU residents their best chance to integrate (see box). With this status, they participate on a more equal footing in Maltese society and move freely within the EU. They simply renew their permit every 5 years, and enjoy good legal guarantees, as in most countries. Still, their right to settle is not fully secure in Malta, especially since few can progress to full citizenship (see next section). Even if they live in the country for years, or were born there, they can still be deported and risk losing their status, for example, if they visit their country of origin for long periods of time.

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    Trustworthy lawyers, doctors, MPs?

    Malta’s slightly unfavourable conditions for naturalisation are applied in a totally discretionary procedure, leaving applicants uncertain about the outcome. Only 7 other MIPEX countries lack public standards for quality language assessments. While 10 others have ‘good character’ requirements, few are as complicated or confusing as in Malta. For example, an applicant needs two ‘trustworthy’ sponsors. Neither can be a relative, both are non-naturalised Maltese, and one must be, for example, a Member of Parliament, judge, priest, doctor, lawyer, army officer or policeman. For more information, see: http:// CountryReports/Malta.pdf.

    Most migrants are never eligible to become citizens, unless a Maltese national marries, adopts or has given birth to them. Without this family connection, the country only extends citizenship for humanitarian reasons and with absolute discretion (see box). They become dual nationals. This removes at least one barrier to naturalising and protects them from statelessness, since authorities can withdraw their Maltese citizenship on many grounds. Birthright citizenship, which Malta abolished in 1989, is re-emerging in some form across Europe (now 15, most recently DE, PT, LU, GR). Nowadays, if non-EU residents have children in Malta, they continue to be treated like newcomers themselves. They are outside the pension system and pay university fees like international students.

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    Migrants at least enjoy better opportunities to integrate in Malta following improvements to the anti-discrimination law, following enactment of the Equal Treatment of Persons Order in April 2007. One of the last countries to transpose EU law, Malta, like CZ and EE, took the minimum standards approach. On the positive side, all Maltese residents are now explicitly protected from racial discrimination in all fields, with protection extending to both the public and private sectors. However, discrimination on grounds of nationality is only prohibited in employment, while religion is not covered at all. People are therefore exposed to discrimination in more areas of life than in nearly all European countries. Half the MIPEX countries address all 3 grounds in all areas of life. Malta receives the 2nd lowest score on ‘fields of application’, together with AT, EE, and LV.

    Where Malta prohibits discrimination, a potential victim can seek justice through slightly effective enforcement mechanisms, which are similar across Europe. Victims of racial discrimination can use mediation, receive protection against victimisation and hope for a wide range of sanctions if the judge finds an offence. They also do not have to carry the burden of proof throughout the procedure. However, the process is long and they have no scope for class action. They do receive independent advice and investigative assistance from the specialised agency but only if they suffer racial discrimination, since the mandate of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality is limited to such cases. As in the newly adopted laws of EE and CZ, equality policies are weak. While public bodies are obliged to promote equality since 2010, they do not need to mainstream it into their work or inform the public about their rights. Nor is there scope for positive action.