Getting on top of Irregular Migration
I am a firm believer that each human being deserves to have equal opportunities to succeed in life. It makes no difference whether they are Maltese or not. No human being is different to the other, or more entitled. I also believe Malta cannot continue to accept migrants the way we are doing right now. We simply do not haveenough space, work or infrastructure to cope with such an increasing population.
As I contemplate this, my thoughts go to setting up a Migrant Rehabilitation and Disbursement initiative. Essentially this will see a special dedicated centre set up that will offer rehabilitation, assessment, training and accommodation within a decent and dignified living space.
How will something like this work? We will seek European investment in this programme, this being a service we would be offering Europe. Malta will continue to take irregular immigrants and rehabilitate them, physically, mentally, socially and emotionally. Yet rather than grant all of them the right to stay in Malta, their skills, experience and competencies will be evaluatedafter which they will be placed on this program. This will help them find work and opportunities from Malta within other European and international countries that are better equipped for the volumes we are currently experiencing.
Like this we will still be aiding those who are very much in need of help. But we will also be controlling the flow of migrants into our tiny island. Not only, but we will also be giving them the right foundation to succeed in their life outside of Malta. Of course, this is not something Malta can do alone: we must look to Europe for complete funding.
Now, I am in no way saying Malta has done nothing so far. There are already structures in place to educate migrants. There is a Migrants Learners’ Unit, established by the Ministry for Education, where newly arrived learners are helped to integrateinto the education system. Here they learn linguistic and sociocultural competences. But we need more. What we need is a system where those past school age, and probably already very qualified individuals, are given the right education andcertification, that will enable them to perform fulfilling jobs.
The Government also has plans for the future. Its Migrant Integration Strategy and Action Plan features a vision for 2020. The plan will see a stronger framework set up for the integration of migrants who are already working, living and sending their children to school in Malta. This is a laudable, and much-needed plan of action. Yet, I believe more needs to be done in terms of skills development.
The benefits of the programme I am proposing are manifold. Done properly, the programme would not just address the current skill shortages, but also future ones. This will help fill gaps in jobs that lack enough workers. This is a known and studied problem that affects the whole of Europe. In fact, four in 10 businesses in the European Union report difficulties finding staff with the right skills. This was reported the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training in 2015. And indeed, despite high unemployment in this post-crisis era, there still remain unfilled vacancies.
Germany is one such country. It has around 1.2 million job places unfulfilled. The gaps are in professions that include doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, IT specialists, to name a few. To tackle this, this summer, the country passed a new law, the Skilled Labour Immigration Act. This will come into effect in 2020. The aim is to bring in 25,000 skilled workers to Germany each year. The law will allow those who do not have an employment contract but who can prove that they have the qualified professional training, to work under a number of circumstances.The initiative is a great one, but will Germany find all the right employees it needs? This is where Malta can come in. We can work with Germany, for example, to help provide the necessary training to fill their many gaps.
There is a lot of work to be done to put such a project in motion. But, we need not necessarily reinvent the wheel. Let us look to other countries that have already done the same. There are also studies of what has and has not worked. For instance, a study by the Migration Policy Centre, entitled From Refugees to Workersclosely analysed nine countries and almost one hundred measures adopted in these countries.
The study found how the biggest problems are admin-related. Also, a one-size-fits-all approach never works. Specific tailor-made measures are needed. At the same time, there is no time to lose. It emerged that the sooner support happens, the faster labourmarket integration will take place.
Yet, despite differences between cultures, labour market structures and support measures, there are a lot of similarities across countries. The challenges, policy trade-offs and choices in the labour market integration of refugees and asylum seekers are relatively similar across countries. This means there is real scope for collaboration.
Now this is just a small facet of a much larger concept, but certainly something we can potentially all be looking at together.