Stateless children is a national disgrace
It is nothing short of a national disgrace that the Maltese government is willing to bend over backwards and defy its agreement with the European Commission for people who are able to pay hundreds of thousands of euros to acquire citizenship, while at the same time it leaves children born in Malta stateless.
Partit Demokratiku, quite rightly, raised the issue of the Malian nationals who are facing imminent deportation, including children who were born in Malta.
The party highlighted that these children should be treated as Maltese citizens, and this newspaper would go one step further and urge that they are given Maltese citizenship because no one, particularly children, should be left stateless.
After all, these children are Maltese for all intents and purposes: they were born in Malta, they have fully integrated into Maltese society in ways that their parents never could, they have never even seen their parents’ homeland and they go to school in Malta and they are friends of our own children.
Deporting these children would leave an indelible stain on the country’s reputation – at
home and abroad alike. These are basic human rights that the country is morally, if not legally, obliged to uphold.
There is a serious lacuna in the country’s legislation, and it is one that the international community has for too long now been requesting Malta to fill.
The problem has been flagged time and time again. For example, none other than the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed grave concern about cases of children, mostly with respect to the children of irregular migrants, who are not provided with birth registration.
The Committee has stressed its concern that there is no provision in the Citizenship Act for the acquisition of Maltese citizenship by a child born in Malta who would not be eligible for citizenship of any other country because of its parents’ life situation.
It urged Malta to “ensure that all children born in its territory are registered at birth, regardless of the status of their parents, with particular attention to children in single-parent families and/or irregular migration situations”.
It also called on Malta to “ensure that a child born in Malta to parents who are foreigners, but unable to pass on their nationality, or to parents who themselves are stateless or whose nationality is unknown, is granted citizenship.”
But such pleas have continually fallen on deaf ears, and the country simply cannot allow this situation to persist.
There is something intrinsically incongruous when you have a government that does not bat an eyelid when it is criticised for its programme of selling Maltese citizenships to the wealthy on the one hand, and denying the underprivileged the means by which to address their statelessness.
The Home Affairs Minister recently told the media that were Malta to sign the United Nations’ 1954 and 1961 conventions on statelessness – key instruments in the protection of fundamental human rights of stateless persons – human resources would be strained and the system would become clogged up with so many more irregular migrants claiming they are stateless.
The fact remains that there are children being born stateless in Malta is entirely unacceptable in this day and age.