"Exhibiting You" - Story

Women Immigrants

By: Mary Anne Zammit
Submitted: 10/31/2008

I am traveling on waters crossing borders without knowing where I am heading to.
And here I lay myself to be transported into deep, deep sea of unknowingness.
All, I know is that I am a woman fleeing away from war but my greatest enemy is myself.

These are the words of Amina a young woman from Somalia, who is now in Malta seeking refuge. Amina fled from her country after conflict broke in Somalia and like many other women, she had been exposed to violence and social isolation. In post war conflicts women and children are the most vulnerable sectors of society and are in most need of care and totally dependent on external circumstances.

In other circumstances these Somali women would be leading a normal life with a profession or career but war has disrupted this education. This endless fighting among rivals in the country led to the killing and starvations of thousands of Somalis but there are some who manage to escape.

Sadly, this is the reality for many immigrants who enter illegally in the Mediterranean region and Malta being in the centre is the most affected by this influx. Throughout these last years the amount of immigrants have increased considerably, the majority of them coming from Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and other regions in Africa.

This gradual unexpected invasion is arousing numerous questions amongst citizens. Are these immigrants following a dream to live and work in Europe? Are they driven by war and poverty? Or if there is a secret mechanism operating with ulterior aims other than those of helping these poor people.

What remains is these thousands of other brothers and sisters from Africa are desperately leaving their countries with the hope of acquiring a better life. This concept gives them hope and strength to start their journey, paying all their fortunes even though that deep within them they know they will never see their family again. They cross deserts and then the sea, some of them manage to reach the shore but there are others who do not make it.

Most often, the island of Malta is not their ultimate destination for their target is Italy but the strategic position of the island makes it difficult for them.

The immigrants end up here unwillingly either because they are detected by patrol surveillance or due to lack of fuel. According to our National law the landing of anyone without any documents or identification are liable to infringe the law. Thus they are transported to places of detention where they are kept for a specific period of time, till they are identified by Maltese Authorities.

Once, identified these individuals are taken to the Open Centre in Marsa where they have more freedom of movement and manage to get work, the majority of them get manual jobs or in construction sites. Yet, few are the ones who manage to work by regular practices and the rest are not well paid being given a trivial amount of money.

This situation is putting these foreigners at risk where most of the time they are seen as taking the jobs, a good excuse to hide the ruthless motivation of employers and contractors who prefer to employ people with low wages. This also gives rise to abuse and in certain circumstances those with no permit and the necessary documents were reported to the police on the day they were supposed to be paid.
Women have lesser opportunities when it comes to work and most of the time is spent in the company of each other or with their children.

Most of the women are illiterate and do not read in English and this limit their chances of getting a job and having an active role in society.

In order to help these women to integrate in society more efforts are being undertaken. The focus is on addressing their needs by providing literacy courses, vocational training skills and information on reproductive health and protection which is highly important as most often these women see childbearing as their ultimate achievement.

The core of the problem lies in resolving conflicts so that men and women like Amina should not be fleeing from their country often in peril and risking their lives. Like any other citizens on the globe, women have rights which enable them to be what they aspire to be crossing parallel lives with other women in every part of the globe.

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