Friday, June 18, 2010

Hal Far Football Tournament

As part of the activities for World Refugee Day, UNHCR and JRS co-hosted a football tournament for the residents of Hal Far Open Centre, where there are both barracks and a tent village for immigrants.

Representatives from JRS, UNHCR, and the German Embassy--they donated the Puma jerseys that the players are wearing.

UNHCR people had fancy blue hats. My plan to have the JRS team show up in matching vests did not materialize.

Right after this the player in white got a yellow card.

A not-so-great shot of the tent village that I got right before we left on the bus.


World Refugee Day 2010!

Malta's World Refugee Day Activities


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

This morning I went to see a presentation given by JRS staff at Mater Dei, the main hospital in Malta. It was for health professionals, aimed at improving cultural awareness when treating migrants, as Malta is still dealing with a lot of xenophobia. There is a new Migrant Health Unit which just recently began training “cultural mediators,” who are more than just translators, but try to bridge the gap in the differences between Western and non-Western approaches to medicine. Most of the migrants are treated in Floriana, where there's a smaller health center, but for emergencies and other occasions they do come to the hospital, and there are no interpreters or cultural mediators employed at this time who can translate for migrants who do not speak English. JRS and other NGOs are pushing to get some on staff at the hospital. MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) employs some mediators, and they are sometimes called to come to the hospital, but they are stretched pretty thin as they have many other responsibilities throughout the country: outreach, other clinics, etc.

JRS had a social worker, a lawyer, a cultural mediator, and our director Fr Joe speak about their experiences—they stressed that they were not there to teach or push their views on the health workers, but simply share what they knew and try to give a more complete picture of what migrants have been through (crossing the Sudanese desert, abominal conditions and persecution in Libya, treacherous sea passage). JRS mentioned that a frequent complaint by health professionals is that migrants are dirty or never shower, etc, but they had powerpoints which showed the horrible conditions of the detention, as well as the Open Centres, which is where people are placed if they are granted asylum or have reached the limit of time when they can lawfully be detained. The access to shower and bathroom facilities is awful and sometimes the detainees aren’t given clean clothes or even shoes. So, it's understandable if someone isn't able to come showered or is late to an appointment because of waiting in line for various things. Epecially for those in detention, they are at the mercy of the soliders who can decide if they do or do not have time to take someone to the hospital, or a van might not be available, or whatever.

The people who attended were very receptive, but of course the presentation was optional, so those with the most misconceptions didn’t hear any of the information. It was mostly nurses; all of the doctors were invited but there was only one in attendance.

The most exciting thing for me, of course, was to see government run health care in action ;)


Hello! I have been in Malta for almost two weeks, but it took me a while to set up this blog, so over the next few days I will put up backdated posts I have been writing.

Thursday May 20, 2010
After leaving Miami on Tuesday, flying through Detroit and London, I arrived in Malta on Wednesday. I'm staying at the university dorms, where undergrads from all over Europe and the US live while studying abroad here (I suppose the country is so small that Maltese students don't really need to stay in dorms). They're about to take finals, their semester started in February. The dorms are organized into flats of 8 bedrooms with a common kitchen and bathrooms--it's very L'auberge espagnole.

Thursday was my first day of work at Jesuit Refugee Service. Kristina, one of the social workers, picked me up. Everyone at the office is incredibly nice--I met one of the attorneys, Roberta, the other intern, Armandine (law student from France), Celine, who also came here from France and ended up staying a few years, two cultural mediators, Hassan and Goitom, Luisa the receptionist, and the director, Fr Joe.

I spent the day reading reports and publications of JRS. Observing office life at JRS reminded me of my old job at Catholic Charities--clients dropping in, people speaking 8 different languages at once, lawyers and social workers tag teaming to find solutions for the clients' problems. It made me feel right at home! I am so incredibly happy to be in this environment again and far far away from law school.

After work, Celine, Armandine, and I went to a training at UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). If you've worked with refugees for any amount of time, it's kind of amazing that I got to go to their office on my first day of work. Or at all, really. They had a rep in from the Geneva office who gave a short training to legal aid lawyers on how to use Refworld, which compiles country information, policy documents, and legal info which is useful for anyone working in refugee or asylum law (Cabrini take note!) The website it fairly self-explanatory so we didn't really need a training, but Celine wanted us to go to meet some of the legal aid lawyers. In Malta, there is no right to have an attorney when submitting an application for refugee status, but one can be appointed if an application is rejected and the individual wants to appeal.

Tuesday May 25, 2010
Malta has 359 Catholic churches. I may not have time to visit them all.

Important Note: If you make plans to meet a friend by your office after work, do not casually suggest that you meet “by the church.” You will inevitably end up at different churches. Even if you’re talking to said friend on the phone and are so close to each other that you can hear the same church bells ringing in the background, it is still possible that you will each walk to a church a few blocks away and be at different churches. Not that I know from experience, or anything. Just...saying.