A 15-month multilateral creative writing project for emerging writers in the Mediterranean

run by Inizjamed and the British Council

The official Klandestini website is at http://klandestini.britishcouncil.org/

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Klandestini Festival of Emerging Mediterranean Writers

Friday 5 to Sunday 7 November, 2004 - St. James Cavalier, Valletta, Malta

 
 

and when i reach port…

Pierre Portelli's Installation for Klandestini

 

"Anxious departures conceived in a paroxysm of febrile thought. The sleepless waves bear the boat of the Initiate to the cult of chance as the furtive thought throbs with expectation. Art stretches language to its limits and creates new possibilities even peripheral ones. The clandestine thought, like the ever shifting paper boat provides a means of fragile escape from stagnation, repression … breaking the shackles of imprisoning logical thought and going beyond that to create and transform possibilities.

 

and when i reach port…"

 

 

pierre portelli   b.1961 

Works mainly in installation art.  He is also a stage designer (Malta Song for Europe 2001, 2002 and 2003), book designer and set designer for TV productions in Malta.  He resided in the UK between 1977 and 1982 and studied at Swindon School of Art and Design. Active member of Contemporary art group START.  

 

Select personal projects include and when I reach port… Installation St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, Valletta (2004), Ropport an ongoing collaboration with American artist Ann Ropp (2002),  ism at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta (1999), A Happening, a collaboration with Austin Camilleri, Valletta and Victoria, Gozo (1999), What was...is, St Johns Co-Cathedral, Valletta, Breadworks, Central Connecticut State University, USA (1998) and Pierre Portelli by Marta V. Kot, a collaboration with American artist Marta V. Kot in NY, USA (1998). 

 

Select group shows include Carosello Maltese, Cervia, Italy (2004), Love Difference Collaboration with Love Difference and Michelangelo Pistoletto at the 50th Biennale di Venezia (2003), Borders, Pinto Vaults, Valletta (2003), escape, Old Prisons, Citadel, Gozo (2003) Cityspaces, Valletta (2002), Über, Paceville (2001), Art in Malta Today, St. James Centre for Creativity, Valletta (2000).

 


 


Klandestini Festival of Emerging Mediterranean Writers

Friday 5 to Sunday 7 November, 2004 - St. James Cavalier, Valletta, Malta

 

Full Programme

All events listed below are open to the general public. Entrance is free.

 

Friday, 5 November

Public Seminar on Writing and Translation

St. James Cavalier, 2.00pm - 5.30pm

 

14.00 Official opening of the Klandestini Festival at St. James Cavalier, Valletta. Introductory words: Ronnie Micallef, BC Director - Adrian Grima, Inizjamed - Chris Gatt, St. James Cavalier
14.45

Jane Griffiths presents her paper

"The tongue tied: Poetry as Translation"

15.30 Discussion led by Jane Griffiths
16.00 Coffee break
16.15

Norbert Bugeja presents his paper

"Writing in the Language of the Other"

17.00 Discussion led by Neil Astley

 

 

Saturday, 6 November

Public Seminar on Publishing

St. James Cavalier, 9.00am - 1.00pm

 

9.00

Presentation by Neil Astley, "Publishing: For or Against a Readership?" Followed by group discussions
11.00 Coffee break
11.15 Reporting back
11.45 Presentation by Archontoula Alexandropoulou, "Translation and Poetry as Cooking on Notes and Dressing on Watercolours"
12.15

Prof. Joe Friggieri’s presentation on behalf of the

Malta Council for Culture and the Arts

12.30  Questions and discussion
12.45 Closing speech by Karsten Xuereb, Inizjamed
13.00 Seminar ends

 

Saturday, 6 November

Short Stories and Poems read by the Authors

St. James Cavalier Theatre, 8.00pm

 

"Noura" – Priscilla Cassar

"Maria" – Angeliki Sigourou

"Journey" – Nora Nadjarian

"The Urge" – Jenan Selchuck

"No adjective describe story" – Clare Azzopardi

"The Breakfast" – Gurgenc Korkmazel

15-minute interval

"Neo" – Marco Andreoli

"A Slight Cast in the Eyes of May" – Faize Ozdemirciler

"Stanzas and Refrains of the Sixth Ocean" – Maria Thoma

"I want to die naked and hungry" – Christian Avraamidou

"Brevi Racconti di St Louis & Lawrence" – Fed Zanatta

 

 

Sunday, 7 November

Short Stories and Poems read by the Authors

St. James Cavalier Theatre, 8.00pm

 

 "Għanja ta’ Arti" – Maria Grech Ganada

"Mist in the Village" – Archontoula Alexandropoulou

"Wrong Turn" – Stanley Borg

"Who was it?" – Sotiris Selavis
"Dove Sei" – Alessandro Aronadio

15-minute interval

"Distanzi" – Adrian Grima

"LondRome" – Valerio Cruciani

"The Silver Journey" – Pavlina Ferfelli

"L-Eroj" – Norbert Bugeja

Jane Griffiths

 


Klandestini

Festival tal-Kittieba Emerġenti fil-Mediterran

 

Il-Festival tal-Kittieba Emerġenti fil-Mediterran marbut mal-proġett Klandestini se jsir bejn il-Ġimgħa 5 u l-Ħadd 7 ta' Novembru, 2004, fil-Kavallier ta' San Ġakbu. Fih se jieħdu sehem ma' l-għoxrin kittieba u kittieb minn Malta, l-Italja, il-Greċja, u Ċipru. Ara l-programm sħiħ.

 

L-attivitajiet kollha se jsiru fil-Kavallier ta’ San Ġakbu u d-dħul għalihom huwa b’xejn.

 

Il-Ġimgħa wara nofsinhar, bejn is-2.00pm u l-5.30pm, se jsir seminar pubbliku dwar il-kitba tal-letteratura bil-lingwa nativa u bl-Ingliż. Il-mistiedna speċjali se tkun Jane Griffiths, awtriċi Olandiża li tikteb bl-Ingliż. Se jitkellem ukoll Norbert Bugeja li huwa wkoll wieħed mill-kittieba Maltin magħżulin biex jaqraw ix-xogħol tagħhom fil-festival.

Is-Sibt filgħodu, bejn id-9.00am u s-1.00pm, se jsir seminar pubbliku dwar id-dinja tal-pubblikazzjoni, bil-mistieden speċjali jkun Neil Astley, personalità magħrufa fil-qasam tal-pubblikazzjoni fir-Renju Unit, li se jitkellem dwar it-tema, "Publishing: For or Against a Readership?" Kelliema oħra se tkun il-kittieba żagħżugħa Griega, Archontoula Alexandropoulou.

Is-Sibt u l-Ħadd filgħaxija, fit-8.00pm, il-kittieba kollha minn Ċipru, il-Greċja, l-Italja u Malta li ntgħażlu biex jieħdu sehem f’dan il-festival se jaqraw il-poeżiji u n-novelli tagħhom fit-Teatru tal-Kavallier ta’ San Ġakbu. Il-kittieba se jaqraw ix-xogħol tagħhom darba u għaldaqstant iż-żewġ iljieli tal-Festival se jkunu differenti.
 

Il-kittieba kollha li se jieħdu sehem huma dawn:

Minn Ċipru: Nora Nadjarian, Jenan Selchuck, Gurgenc Korkmazel, Faize Ozdemirciler, Maria Thoma, u Christian Avraamidou.

Mill-Italja: Fed Zanatta, Marco Andreoli, Valerio Cruciani, u Alessandro Aronadio.

Mill-Greċja: Sotiris Selavis, Archontoula Alexandropoulou, Pavlina Ferfelli, u Angeliki Sigourou

Minn Malta: Clare Azzopardi, Stanley Borg, Norbert Bugeja, Priscilla Cassar, Maria Grech Ganado, u Adrian Grima.

 

Għal aktar tagħrif ara l-website tal-proġett Klandestini li qed jitmexxa minn Inizjamed u l-British Council bi sħab mal-Kavallier ta' San Gakbu.


Il-Klandestini jinvadu l-Kavallier ta’ San Ġakbu

 

Qorob il-mument li għoxrin Klandestin ieħor mill-Italja, Ċipru, Malta u l-Greċja jġibu l-problemi tagħhom f’pajjiżna. L-awturi li rikbu d-dgħajsa ta’ Klandestini se jkunu qed jaqilgħu l-inkwiet fit-Teatru tal-Kavallier ta’ San Ġakbu bejn il-Ġimgħa 5 u l-Ħadd 7 ta’ Novembru li ġej.

 

F’dawn it-tlett ijiem ta’ attività intensiva ser isir il-Festival tal-Kittieba Emerġenti tal-Mediterran li se jwassal il-proġett Klandestini – koordinat mill-British Council u Inizjamed tul l-aħħar sena, għall-qofol tiegħu.

 

Matul il-proġett Klandestini saru għadd ta' sessjonijiet ta' taħriġ għal kittieba emerġenti fil-Mediterran. F’dawn is-sessjonijiet l-awturi tħarrġu fil-kitba kreattiva bil-lingwa tagħhom u bl-Ingliż taħt il-gwida ta’ kittieba stabbiliti bbażati fir-Renju Unit, fosthom Sinéad Morrissey, Maurice Riordan u George Szirtes.

 

Il-parteċipanti temmew il-proċess ta’ kitba kreattiva u għażlu li jiffukaw fuq it-tema tal-"klandestini" li tissuġġerixxi stħarriġ kemm tat-tema ta' l-emigrazzjoni illegali fil-Mediterran, kif ukoll it-tema tal-kittieba emerġenti bħala klandestini.


L-istorja ta’ l-emigrazzjoni illegali hija storja twila u realtà importanti fil-Mediterran. Il-kittieba għamlu r-riċerka tagħhom u wara diskussjoni setgħu jesprimu l-pożizzjoni dwar din is-sitwazzjoni. It-tema tal-Klandestini għandha l-għan li tħeġġeġ il-kreattività u tqajjem dibattitu, u mhux li tillimita lill-awturi. Is-sessjonijiet ta' taħriġ iffukaw fuq il-kitba tal-poeżija u n-novelli.

 

Għall-Festival, l-aqwa xogħlijiet kienu magħżula minn persuni assenjati ma' kull grupp biex dawn jittellgħu online matul il-festival. L-awturi tagħhom ser jippreżentaw ix-xogħol tagħhom matul il-lejliet. Mill-kontinġent Malti intgħażlu x-xogħlijiet ta’ Clare Azzopardi (fir-ritratt), Stanley Borg, Norbert Bugeja, Priscilla Cassar, Maria Grech Ganado u Adrian Grima. Naturalment, min jattendi se jkollu l-opportunità li jisma’ dak li qed jinkiteb f’dan il-mument f’pajjiżna, u jkun anke jista’ jiżnu, jikkritikah u jikkomparah ma’ xogħlijiet miktuba barra minn xtutna. 

 

Nhar il-Ġimgħa, 5 ta’ Novembru, fis-2pm jingħata bidu għal seminar miftuħ għall-pubbliku li se jittratta “Il-Kitba u t-Traduzzjoni.” Il-koordinatur tal-proġett Karsten Xuereb se jintroduċi s-sessjoni b’tagħrif dwar il-proġett Klandestini flimkien ma’ Ronnie Micallef mill-British Council, Adrian Grima minn Inizjamed, u Chris Gatt mill-Kavallier ta’ San Ġakbu.

 

Matul is-seminar se jinqraw żewġ papers, waħda mill-awtriċi Olandiża Jane Griffiths u l-oħra mill-awtur Malti Norbert Bugeja. Id-diskussjonijiet dwar dawn il-papers se jitmexxew minn Neil Astley, editur tad-dar tal-pubblikazzjonijiet magħrufa Ingliża Bloodaxe. Griffiths ser titkellem dwar "The tongue tied: Poetry as Translation", filwaqt li Bugeja ser jippreżenta diskors bl-isem ta’ “(Writing) In the Language of the Other.

 

Fil-paper tiegħu Bugeja se jittratta l-kwistjonijiet jaħarqu li qed jgħix fihom l-awtur emerġenti llum: il-problema tal-memorja storika, ta’ l-antenat letterarju, tal-pubblikazzjoni u l-kitba fiha nfisha, il-kwistjoni tat-traduzzjoni, u fuq kollox il-kwistjoni tal-lingwa. “Letteratura Maltija bl-Ingliż. Għaliex le?” jikkummenta Bugeja. “Dan fid-dawl ta’ l-inkwiet serju li qed jiffaċċjaw l-awturi Klandestini Maltin: l-għarfien li aħna tant elokwenti fil-lingwa u l-lingwaġġ li jżommuna priġunieri. Agħar minn hekk, dan id-diskors bilkemm ma jinstemax romantiku.”

 

Is-Sibt imbagħad, bejn id-9.00am u l-11am se ssir diskussjoni fi grupp immexxija minn Neil Astley. Aktar tard se tinqara paper qasira ta’ l-awtriċi Griega Archontoula Alexandropoulou. Wara dawn il-Professur Joe Friggieri se jindirizza s-seminar f’isem il-Kunsill Malti għall-Arti u l-Kultura u mbagħad ikun hemm ħin għall-mistoqsijiet u d-diskussjoni. Karsten Xuereb jagħlaq is-sessjoni.

 

Il-Festival jilħaq il-qofol tiegħu is-Sibt u l-Ħadd flgħaxija permezz tal-qari tax-xogħlijiet ta’ l-awturi mistiedna għal dan il-Festival. Kull min jattendi żgur li se jintlaqat minn xi mument partikolari fost il-kuluri ta’ kitbiet li se jinqraw jew jiġu rreċtati fuq dawn Iż-żewġ serati. Is-Sibt ser jaqraw Priscilla Cassar, Angeliki Sigourou, Nora Nadjarian, Jenan Selchuck, Clare Azzopardi, Gurgenc Korkmazel, Marco Andreoli, Faize Ozdemirciler, Maria Thoma, Christian Avraamidou u Federico Zanatta.

 

Il-Ħadd 7 ta’ Novembru mbagħad ikun imiss lil Maria Grech Ganado, Archontoula Alexandropoulou, Stanley Borg, Sotiris Selavis, Alessandro Aronadio, Adrian Grima, Valerio Cruciani (fir-ritratt), Paulina Ferfelli u Norbert Bugeja.

 

Fost l-ismijiet tax-xogħlijiet letterarji li se jinqraw hemm Noura, A Slight Cast in the Eyes of May, The Urge, Neo 2, the heroes, I want to die naked and hungry, Għanja ta’ Arti, Distanzi, Wrong Turn, LondRome, The Silver Journey, Mist in the Village, u għadd ta’ kitbiet oħrajn.

 

Għal aktar tagħrif wieħed jista’ jidħol fis-sit internet ta’ Inizjamed http://inizjamed.cjb.net minn fejn ikun jista’ wkoll jidħol permezz ta’ link ifis-sit internet esklussiv tal-proġett Klandestini: http://klandestini.britishcouncil.org/

 

Norbert Bugeja

Il-Ġensillum, 30.10.04


 

Festival of Emerging Mediterranean Writers

 

The Klandestini Festival of Emerging Mediterranean Literature will be held between Friday 5 and Sunday 7 November, 2004, at St. James Cavalier in Valletta. See the full programme.

 

The programme includes a seminar on publication and writing in English as a second language on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning and two different readings by writers from Italy, Cyprus, Greece and Malta on Saturday and Sunday evening at 8.00pm in the Theatre at St. James Cavalier. All events are free and the general public is welcome to attend.

 

The writers taking part are:

From Cyprus: Nora Nadjarian, Jenan Selchuck, Gurgenc Korkmazel, Faize Ozdemirciler, Maria Thoma, Christian Avraamidou.

From Italy: Fed Zanatta, Marco Andreoli, Valerio Cruciani, Alessandro Aronadio.

From Greece: Sotiris Selavis, Archontoula Alexandropoulou, Pavlina Ferfelli, Angeliki Sigourou

From Malta: Clare Azzopardi, Stanley Borg, Norbert Bugeja, Priscilla Cassar, Maria Grech Ganado, Adrian Grima.

To read their works and to know more about each one of these writers visit the official Klandestini website.

 

Friday afternoon and Saturday morning seminars

 

The main speakers at the Friday seminar on writing in a second language are Norbert Bugeja and Jane Griffiths. Norbert Bugeja will be reading a paper about "Writing in the Language of the Other." He was born in Siggiewi in 1980. He has a BA (Hons) in English and is currently reading for his MA at the University of Malta, dealing with contemporary post-colonial theory, current trends and its relation to new French criticism. He is currently a member of Inizjamed.

 

Jane Griffiths' paper is called, "The tongue tied: Poetry as Translation." She was born in Exeter and grew up in Holland. After reading English at Oxford, where her poem The House won the Newdigate Prize, she worked as a book-binder in London and Norfolk. She has since returned to Oxford, where she completed her doctorate on the Tudor poet John Skelton. A revised version of her thesis, John Skelton and Poetic Authority, is shortly to be published by Oxford University Press. After working on the Oxford English Dictionary for two years, she now lectures in English at St Edmund Hall. She won an Eric Gregory Award for her poetry in 1996, and has published two collections with Bloodaxe, A Grip on Thin Air (2000) and Icarus on Earth (2005).

 

In the Saturday morning seminar on publication that starts at 9.00am, the main speaker is Neil Astley. His presentation, "Publishing: For or Against a Readership?" will centre on the divisions in literature, the ways the interests of writers, readers and publishers too often conflict with one another, so that everyone loses out in the end. This will be followed by group discussions.

 

Neil Astley founded Bloodaxe Books in 1978, and was given a D.Litt by Newcastle University for his pioneering work. He has edited over 800 poetry books, and has published several anthologies, including Staying Alive: real poems for unreal times (Bloodaxe, UK, 2002; Miramax, USA, 2003), which has sold 100,000 copies in two years, and Being Alive: the sequel to Staying Alive, which went into the poetry bestsellers list at no.1 on publication in October 2004, as well as Poetry with an Edge (1988/1993), New Blood (1999), Pleased to See Me: 69 very sexy poems (2002), and Do Not Go Gentle: poems for funerals (2003).

 

He won an Eric Gregory Award for his own poetry, and has published two poetry collections, Darwin Survivor (1988), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and Biting My Tongue (1995). His novel The End of My Tether (Flambard, 2002; Scribner, 2003) was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award in 2002, and his second novel, The Sheep Who Changed the World, is due from Flambard in 2005.

 

Another speaker on Saturday morning will be the Greek writer from Pyrgos, Arcontoula Alexandropoulou. Her presentation is called, "Translation and Poetry as Cooking on Notes and Dressing on Watercolours." When Tchaikovski composed his Manfred Symphony, he was practically translating Byron’s poetic work in hundreds of different languages all at once creating a new “poem” of his own. And Bruegel’s Fall of Ikarus was Auden’s poem translated into hues, shades, brush strokes and light.

 

“Translation is art,” writes Arcontoula Alexandropoulou, tends to become a cliché. Translation of poetry and literature, though, is painting, and the composition of melodies, it is essentially the cooking of a dish on somebody else’s recipe, mixing familiar tastes, herbs and spices. Experienced poets advise young ones to translate poetry from other languages into their own, to delve into the sounds, the rhythm, the internal system and vibrant structure of the original, and through this initiation, to mix and cook, to pick and choose their own unique ingredients.

 

Soon enough one realizes that they improvise, that writing poetry is doing one’s own cooking, guessing which chromatic background best fits the presentation of their dish, translating tastes, smells, melodies, silence into words, commas, poems, meaningful white spaces. And if the chef poet puts his hands on the ingredients of two different languages as Greek and English then he or she mixes and separates and often finds out that not all of his/ her recipes can always be written and executed in both languages, so the poet sits back and lets the translator worry about the dressing.
 

The Klandestini multilateral creative writing project is run by Inizjamed and the British Council with the support of the St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity.


Poetic and the injustice

Klandestini is a multilateral creative writing project which shows why emerging writers, just like illegal immigrants, need a refuge

 

SIX Cypriots, four Greeks, four Italians and six Maltese meet in a round theatre. But instead of lying to get themselves out and into trouble and generally treating the world as their ashtray like they normally do in jokes, all they do for a whole weekend is read poetry and prose. You would have thought they had better things to do, but read they do. And they do it well.

Well, what would you expect seeing that for the past year they have been going at writing like literate rabbits? Since October of last year, when Klandestini was officially launched, emerging writers from Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Malta have been meeting, having online discussions and participating in workshops mentored by established UK-based writers Sinead Morrissey, George Szirtes and Maurice Riordan. The aim of these workshops in creative writing and literary translation was to have the writers exercise in their native language, then having it translated into English so they could communicate with other writers in various countries as well as have better chances of publishing. Moreover, the benefits of translation are such because poetry happens everywhere, but sometimes, it happens in languages that do not attract attention. We are the poorer for not experiencing it, but at least, it can be found in translation.

Klandestini, artistically coordinated by Inizjamed with its partner organisations in Cyprus, Greece and Italy, and in consultation with the British Council and the support of St. James Cavalier, reaches its climax with the Festival of Emerging Mediterranean Writers, which will involve word jugglers from all participating countries.

Writers have chosen to focus on the image and theme of klandestini, which calls forth both the theme of migration in a Mediterranean context and that of the emerging writer as an illegal immigrant. The issue of migration, and its natural collateral, injustice, is an important one in the Mediterranean and one which the participating artists have engaged with.

But if you go to the readings, don't expect to sit through another reality show on boatloads of immigrants. Rather, writers have focused on how both emerging writers and illegal immigrants are uncertain about their past, curious of their future, uncomfortable in a present where they are both trying to make a break. Both are homeless, changing their world by changing their homeland. Both sail between two extremes and once disembarked on foreign soil, will remain unsettled and involved in the maintenance of their native culture and the courting of a new one. And they both write in a different language, which may sound gibberish next to our grey, comfortable gossip, but which could slap us in the face and awake us to our frail human existence where every one of us is an illegal immigrant.

Klandestini will bring together friends and relatives. In this case, it will not be a nephew from l-Għasri and a long lost aunt from Cambodia. Rather, it will be you and words with a meaning. These days, when the nature of popular culture is transient, and people have as much individuality as a stretch of newly laid tarmac (we don't get much of that but still...), literature is as inviting as a glass of cold beer when you've been out in the desert all day.

In Klandestini, wild and whirling words will toss and reel and dance as you see the poets play. And just like Thai food, these words will get all your six senses huffing and puffing and blowing your mind in. Tears will come as a fringe benefit and laughter as a bonus as you listen to small but perfectly formed lines and snippets from longer prose, which will inspire you to stalk the writers until they have to read the whole of it.

What the writers say

Valerio Cruciani,
Italy

"After the Klandestini preliminary meeting last December, I formed a group of writers. Our first aim was to expand our line of vision, both from a stylistic as well as a group perspective. Our original plans saw us having a four-member group, but we ended up with 11 writers who are also involved in film and theatre. The most interesting aspect of the Klandestini project was the opportunity it gave us to meet with other emerging writers from the Mediterranean and collaborate with them on the common theme of borders and alienation."

Valerio Cruciani was born in Rome in 1977. He graduated in 2002 in arts and over the past five years he has been closely involved with cultural association Amnesia Vivace. He has held three photography exhibitions and collaborated with film director Michelangelo Ricci.

Mr Cruciani will be reading a short story, "LondRome".

Archontoula Alexandropoulou,
Greece

"At the beginning there is the island. You walk around, talk to the people, tell them you write, get invited to lectures, poetry evenings, discuss with other poets from nearby islands. Cities are like islands. Klandestini drew a bridge between each writer's insular dwelling place and the next, introducing us to new tastes and fragrances. During the past months I feel I have been allowed into a vast playground of words and images and left there to feed my senses."

Archontoula Alexandropoulou was born in Patras in 1976. She received a BA degree in English Language and Literature by the Kapodistrian University of Athens and an MA in Translation Theory. She has published poetry, prose and papers on literary theory, psychology and Ilian poetry.

Ms Alexandropoulou will be reading a poem, "Mist in the Village".

Norbert Bugeja,
Malta

"For my part, the approaching Klandestini festival has long been beckoning from the future. I know that in other times and places, others have, like me, been penning their various responses to the individual and collective scatterings that inform them. For a brief moment, the festival will perform the unique task of gathering this post-human diaspora of young and talented klandestini to disclose their leaking boats at close quarters."

Norbert Bugeja was born in Siggiewi in 1980. He has a BA (Hons) in English and is currently reading for his MA at the University of Malta, dealing with contemporary post-colonial theory, current trends and its relation to new French criticism. He is currently a member of Inizjamed.

Mr Bugeja will be reading a short story, "L-Eroj".

The Klandestini Festival of Emerging Mediterranean Writers is being held at St James Cavalier between Friday and Sunday. Readings on Saturday and Sunday start at 8.00 p.m The programme also includes public discussions led by Jane Griffiths and Neil Astley. More information may be obtained online at http://klandestini.britishcouncil.org/

Published in The Times (Saturday, 30 October, 2004)


Clandestine thoughts?

by Ronnie Micallef, country director, British Council, Malta

 

At various points in the implementation of this project, one particular question seemed to crop up persistently. How and why is the British Council involved in a Mediterranean literature project? The question is actually not so difficult to answer. A richness of cultures has had an acknowledged influence on contemporary British arts and lifestyles. Monica Ali's Brick Lane, for instance, highlights the theme of movement across cultures, observes perceptions of home and addresses the individual's quest for meaning in a changing world. This pretty much sums up our own Klandestini experience.

But is there a Mediterranean equivalent to Monica Ali which similarly challenges the anodyne depictions of sunny Umbria, exotic Morocco and the troubled Eastern shores? A few examples come to mind, but the contemporary representation of Mediterranean reality in the English language seems to need some revisiting. Hence Klandestini - a literature project for emerging writers of the Mediterranean.

The British Council's remit is to broaden the international view of young people in the UK and other countries. We do this in partnership with Maltese organisations such as Inizjamed and St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, our project partners ensuring mutuality in our dealings. I know that this project has helped British authors and poets focus on the Mediterranean as a source of inspiration in their work. I similarly hope that the British Council has helped broker relationships with other countries in the Mediterranean as well as the UK on behalf of our Maltese partners and in so doing has contributed to the promotion of new forms of literature.

 

Published in The Times (Saturday, 30 October, 2004)


 

F'Ottubru, 2003, The British Council u Inizjamed se jniedu proġett multilaterali ta' kitba kreattiva ta' 15-il xahar għal kittieba emerġenti fil-Mediterran bi sħab mal-Kavallier ta' San Ġakbu

 

Fil-kuntest ta’ dan il-proġett, Inizjamed stabbiliet kuntatti ma’ awturi fl-Italja, Ċipru u Franza li diġà ħadmu flimkien waqt il-Bjennale ta’ l-Artisti Żgħażagħ mill-Ewropa u l-Mediterran. Inizjamed tirrappreżenta lil Malta f’din il-bjennale. Wieħed minn dawn l-awturi huwa Valerio Cruciani minn Ruma. Ħafna minn dawn l-awturi fil-pajjiżi differenti se jieħdu sehem fil-Festival ta’ Kittieba Emerġenti mill-Mediterran li se jsir Malta bejn is-5 u s-7 ta' Novembru ta’ l-2004 fil-Kavallier ta' San Ġakbu.

 

Il-workshops fil-pajjiżi differenti li huma involuti f'dan il-proġett se jsiru fl-ewwel xhur ta’ l-2004 u se jitmexxew minn awturi magħrufin ibbażati fir-Renju Unit. Maurice Riordan, poeta Irlandiż li jgħix Londra (fuq ix-xelluq fir-ritratt ma' Adrian Grima), se jmexxi l-workshops li se jsiru Malta.

 

Għalkemm dawn is-sessjonijiet se jkunu bl-Ingl, il-parteċipanti se jkunu jistgħu jiktbu kemm bil-Malti u kemm bl-Ingliż. L-aħjar xogħlijiet se jiġu ppubblikati biż-żewġ lingwi fuq il-website li qed tiġi ddisinjata b’mod professjonali għall-proġett. Dawn il-workshops huma maħsubin ukoll għal dawk kollha li huma interessati fit-traduzzjoni tal-letteratura.

 

Fil-proġett se jieħdu sehem ukoll għadd ta’ studenti tfajliet u ġuvintur ta' bejn it-12 u t-18-il sena.

 

Jekk int interessat/a f’dawn il-workshops, li se jiffukaw fuq il-kitba tal-poeżija u n-novelli u fuq it-traduzzjoni ikteb lil inizjamed@maltaforum.org jew ċempel fuq 2137 6941 jew 7946 7952.

 


 

Emerging Mediterranean Writers

A 15-month Multilateral Creative Writing Project

 

In October, The British Council and Inizjamed will launch a 15-month multilateral creative writing project for emerging writers in the Mediterranean.

 

In the context of this project Inizjamed has established contacts with writers in Italy, Cyprus, and France who have already worked together in the context of the Biennial for Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean, at which Malta is represented by Inizjamed. One of them is the Roman writer Valerio Cruciani (in picture, left). Many of the writers in the participating countries will meet together at a Festival of Emerging Mediterranean Writers to be held in Malta between 5-7 November, 2004.

 

The writing workshops in the different countries involved in the project will be run by well-known writers based in the UK in early 2004. The workshops in Malta will be mentored by Irish London-based poet, Maurice Riordan, who appears in the first photo above, on the right.

 

The sessions will be in English but the participants can write either in Maltese or in English. The best works will be published on the professionally designed project website in both Maltese and English. Those who are interested in literary translations are encourage to attend.

 

A group of male and female students aged between 12 and 18 will also be participating in the project.

 

If you are interested in attending these literary workshops, which will focus mainly on poetry, short stories and literary translations, write to inizjamed@maltaforum.org or phone on 2137 6941 or 7946 7952.

 

Adrian Grima

20.8.03

 


Some Guidelines and Information

for the Klandestini writers

 

Main Objectives of the Project

Klandestini is a creative writing project, therefore the three main objectives are:

  1. making emerging Mediterranean writers better

  2. making them connect between themselves

  3. making them connect with writers outside the Mediterranean

 

The Participants

The Klandestini project is mainly for emerging writers who are resident in the one of the participating Mediterranean countries. Participants must be 18 and over. They will normally write in their native Mediterranean languages and have their work translated into English in order to be able to communicate with the mentor and the participants in the other countries.

 

With regard to the writing sessions for young students, each country may choose to carry out this part of the project within schools, colleges or universities.

 

The Common Image/Theme

The Klandestini project encourages the participating writers to follow one of two strands of interest, or both, in varying degrees:

1.      the first strand focuses on the social, anthropological and / or political aspect of migration, refugees and clandestine life

2.      the second strand deals with ‘being clandestine’ as an image / metaphor / theme to be applied to writers / artists, with particular reference to Mediterranean writers and emerging Mediterranean writers (who make up the group of participants in Klandestini)

 

The website

Not all the texts will be published online. The local mentor together with the UK-based mentor should guide the writers in this respect. The same goes for the possible publication in October 2004.

 

Translations

Each writing group is to make use of its human and/or financial resources to see that the translations of the literary works into English are of high quality.

 

Role and Function of Mentors

The mentors will fulfil the role outlined by the project proposal (please refer to website). Maurice Riordan will be the mentor for the group in Malta, Sinéad Morrissey for Cyprus, and George Szirtes for Greece. The mentor for the Italian group has not yet been identified.

 

At the December 2003 Malta meeting, the representatives of the writing groups and BC offices in the participating countries agreed that there should also be a local mentor to assist the writing group when it comes to choosing the works that should be published on the website.

 

The Writing Groups within each Country

Writers within each group are to meet each other in person when possible. However, the main means of communication between them is the website. Workshop duration will vary according to the different writing group. Maurice Riordan will be leading a full-day workshop in Malta on February 15. Before and after that, the writers within the group will be meeting regularly to discuss their writing

 

Communication between the Writing Groups

Karsten Xuereb, the project coordinator, has supplied the lead participants with instructions and notes on the management of the Klandestini website in their own country.

 

Publication

Work on the publication (online and/or book form) of the best works of the Klandestini project will be done between June and September 2004 so the chosen works from each of the participating countries are to reach Karsten Xuereb, the project coordinator, by the end of May 2004.

 

The November 2004 Festival for Emerging Writers in Malta

The Festival will be held at the St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity between Friday 5 and Sunday 7 November. Each participating country will be represented by four writers chosen by the local and foreign mentor, the leader of the writing group, and a representative of the British Council office.

                         

During the Festival, the literary works may be performed in collaboration with visual artists, actors, musicians, film makers and others.

 

Follow-up

After the November 2004 Festival for Emerging Writers in Malta, the writing groups will discuss the project as a whole and send their evaluation to the project coordinator in Malta and to the British Council. The idea is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the project and to come up with concrete proposals for the future.

 

At the December 2003 Klandestini meeting held in Malta, Ms Roisin McDonough (Chair Northern Ireland Arts Council) & Dr Aideen McGinley (Permanent Secretary Northern Ireland Dept Arts, Culture & Sports) announced that they will be inviting a select group of writers from the Klandestini project to visit Belfast in March 2005 for the Between the Lines Literary Festival. This visit will allow participants to attend workshops with writers from Northern Ireland, share their literature in the Festival and gain exposure to the theatre, music and visual arts scene in Northern Ireland.

 

Adrian Grima

Malta - 27 Jan. 04


 

L-Isem "klandestini"

 

Id-deċiżjoni li nipproponi xbiha jew tema komuni għal dan il-proġett ta’ kitba kreattiva għal awturi emerġenti fil-Mediterran ħadnieha wara ħafna diskussjoni. L-idea hi li l-“klandestini” jistimulaw il-kreattività ta’ l-awturi u mhux jagħlquha jew jitfgħuha l-baħar.

 

Ir-realtà tal-klandestini, ta’ l-immigranti hekk imsejħa illegali hija attwali ħafna fil-Mediterran u f’għadd ta’ bnadi oħra tad-dinja fejn il-bnedmin jagħmlu minn kollox biex jaħarbu mill-persekuzzjoni, mid-delużjoni, jew mill-ġuħ. Imma anki l-awturi “emerġenti” huma b’mod klandestini, mhux awtorizzati, mhux milqugħa; anki huma għandhom l-ambizzjonijiet tagħhom li ħafna drabi jidhru bħala theddida għall-awturi “tal-post”.

 

Jikteb Stanley Borg:

Kittieba “ġodda” u klandestini

 

"Fl-aħħar mill-aħħar, kemm il-kittieba “ġodda”, fis-sens ta’ emerġenti, u l-klandestini għandhom l-istess relazzjoni ma’ l-istorja u l-ħin – it-tnejn iħossu inċertezza lejn il-passat, kurżità dwar il-futur u skumdità fi preżent fejn qed jippruvaw jagħmlu ħoss u parti minn sens ta’ komunità, kemm jekk fiċ-ċentru kif ukoll fil-periferija. It-tnejn huma bla dar, klandestini, f’bidla ta’ dinja li ġabet magħha l-bidla ta’ art. It-tnejn jivvjaġġaw bejn żewġ estremi, bejn il-ħalib li qras ta’ art twelidhom u l-għasel imwiegħed ta’ l-art il-ġdida fuq l-orizzont.

 

Anke f’din l-art ġdida, il-kittieba emerġenti u l-klandestini ma jagħmlux l-għeruq, iżda jmantnu l-ħsieb dwar art twelidhom, li jew ma fehmithomx inkella keċċiethom ‘il bogħod minn xtutha. U l-kultura minn fejn ġew iżoqquha u jtuha l-ħajja, forsi xi darba tfiq u tidħqilhom. Sadanittant, jitkellmu b’lingwa li tinstema’ stramba ħdejn iz-zekzik tagħna, iżda li tista’ ttina bil-ħarta u tqajjimna għad-dgħjufija umana tagħna.

 

U t-tnejn, il-kittieba ġodda u l-klandestini jiktbu b’lapes imgerrem li jtaqqlilhom idejhom, sabiex jaraw dak li jiktbu u jiktbu dak li jaraw, waqt li joħolmu li xi darba jmorru lura f’art twelidhom li tilqagħhom."

 


 

What's in a name

Emerging writers and "klandestini"

 

The image or theme of klandestini is meant to stimulate creativity and debate, not hamper it. The workshops will focus on poetry and short stories.

 

The issue of migration is an important one in the Mediterranean (as elsewhere) and one which we feel artists should engage with, get involved in, and take positions. Besides, emerging writers themselves are “clandestine” in a way, because they are outsiders and unauthorised."

 

Stanley Borg writes:

 

"At the end of the day, and night, both emerging writers and klandestini are uncertain about their past, curious of their future, uncomfortable in a present where they are both trying to make a break, to be included in an uncanny, communal ‘something’.  Both are homeless, clandestine, changing their world by changing their homeland.  Both sail between two extremes, from the nourishing milk turned sour of a jilted motherland and the promised honey of a new unknown, towards which they journey. 

 

Once disembarked on foreign soil, emerging writers and klandestini remain unsettled yet involved in the maintenance of their native culture which has refused or misunderstood them – they feed it, nourish it to keep it breathing, perhaps to see it heal and heave with laughter and dance.  And they both write and speak in a different language, which may sound gibberish next to our grey, comfortable gossip, but which could slap us in the face and awaken us to our frail human essence. 

 

And both, emerging writers and klandestini, use a slow, rough pen, to see what they write and write what they see while dreaming of a return to their homeland."

 


 

Links Utli - Useful Links

 

Clandestina: Artists in Conflict

 

Maurice Riordan

Malta: The Case of Hashem Sarir

Malta and Immigration

Literature and Writers involved in the project

Water


Klandestini in the Press

 

The Malta Independent on Sunday, by Gillian Bartolo (August 31, 2003)

The Malta Independent, by Cynthia Busuttil (October 29, 2003)

The Times, by Herman Grech (October 29, 2003)

Orbis, Ivan Callus (January 2004)

The Times (March 11, 2004)

Babelmed.net, by Adrian Grima (February, 2004)

 

 

Adrian Grima about Klandestini

English version of presentation at the launch of the Klandestini project at St. James Cavalier, 28.10.03

 

"Klandestini – Emerging Mediterranean Writers" is an 18-month creative writing project for emerging writers and for secondary school students in five countries: Malta, Turkey, Italy, Cyprus, and Greece. Established writers based in the UK will lead a series of workshops in the various participating countries in which the emerging writers will write in the native language and have their poems or short stories translated into English. The emerging writers in the different countries will be linked together through a professionally designed website created in the UK and administered by Inizjamed here in Malta through Karsten Xuereb, the project coordinator.

 

The group of writers and the workshops in each participating country is coordinated by one of the writers or by the partner organization (eg. Valerio Cruciani from Amnesia Vivace in Rome) and by the local British Council office. Klandestini reaches its climax with the publication of the best works produced throughout the duration of the project and with a Festival of Emerging Mediterranean Writers to be held at St. James Cavalier in November, 2004.

 

The Klandestini project was created and is being run by Inizjamed and The British Council, with the support of the St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity. Within The British Council, Mr. Ronnie Micallef, director of the British Council office in Malta, and Ms. Suzanne Joinson, from the Film and Literature Department, have played a crucial role in the creation of this ambitious project. Karsten Xuereb from Inizjamed, the Klandestini project coordinator, is making it all happen.

 

This project is a dream come true for Inizjamed and you can certainly recognize many of the characteristic traits of Inizjamed at the very heart of Klandestini:

  • the focus on creativity, on giving unestablished artists the opportunity to develop their skills

  • the focus on the Mediterranean region

  • the emphasis on cultural diversity, on linguistic diversity but at the same time the search for creative and meaningful communication between different cultures

  • English is seen not as an obstacle to cultural diversity but as a language that allows people to share their rich diversities, as an open, rather than oppressive lingua franca

  • the interest in current issues that affect people’s everyday lives, both in Malta and in other countries: until the world remains a place where resources are not distributed evenly (or not distributed at all) there will always be “klandestini,” people who risk their lives to search for a better life elsewhere.

  • the need to empower children and teenagers to tell their own story and not to allow others to speak for them

  • working in partnership with local and foreign organizations

  • drawing on contacts made by Inizjamed through the Association that runs the Biennial for Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean and other members of our network

  • seeing that women play a leading role in cultural initiatives. Despite the misleading line-up at this press conference, many of the emerging writers and country coordinators are in fact women

  • focusing on the process and not only on the results (in terms of publications)

  • Inizjamed’s collaboration with St. James Cavalier which has consistently supported us over the years

  • This project is the result of a true partnership which includes the sharing of ideas, resources and contacts

One last point

 

Minister Mugliett has always supported our voluntary cultural initiatives and we certainly appreciate his support. We wouldn’t have an office for Inizjamed and the Klandestini project if it weren’t for his help.

 

Now it is time for local NGOs to have a law that establishes the duties and rights of NGOs. We don't expect the government to carry us along in its arms: we are non-governmental organizations and proud of it. But if the government respects the work that we do, both as volunteers and as paid workers, it must give us an internationally recognized legal framework within which to work  We’ve been waiting for this law for many years – so I ask Minister Mugliett to urge the Cabinet to present the White Paper on NGOs as soon as possible and to be prepared for the comments and suggestions that will follow this invitation to consultation.

 

We believe that the process is as important as the end: Klandestini is an important stage in a longer, more exciting journey. NGOs are alive and kicking.

 

Adrian Grima, Coordinator, Inizjamed

28 October, 2003

 


 

Ronnie Micallef about Klandestini

(The Times, 1 November, 2003)

 

I refer to the report by Herman Grech "Klandestini launched to encourage the talent of writers in the Mediterranean" (The Times, Wednesday, 0ctober 29, 2003).

I feel it is important to clarify the statement I made at the time of the Press Conference, since I am reported as having said that 'those writing about Mediterranean culture hardly ever ventured beyond Tuscan villas, the countryside and palm tress.' This is, in fact, completely at variance to what I actually said and the point I was making, which was that my own impression is that the complex realities of contemporary Mediterranean culture, being voiced by young Mediterranean writers, are simply not being published, and are therefore not making it to the bookshelves of major international bookstores.

While a great deal of reading matter is available on life in Latin America, Africa - indeed, any part of the world, through works of globally renowned but locally conscious authors and poets, the same cannot really be said of the Mediterranean. A search through the bookshelves of any major British bookstore for an authentic voice speaking out for young Mediterranean people today can be very disappointing. Where are the stories which deal with the deeper realities beneath the tourist-brochure gloss of Mediterranean towns? Can this reality be considered only in the light of endless days in hammocks in beautiful Tuscan, Cretan or Gozitan farmhouses, as the Amazon book selector seems to suggest? Does the wider world understand the tensions, frustrations, hopes and aspirations of the new generation of Mediterranean writers? Indeed, can we even refer to Mediterranean writers as representing a specific genre? This in itself raises an all-important question - what does it take to make an international publisher aware of the scant attention at present being paid to the sometimes harsh realities of everyday living in the Mediterranean region?

Hence the Klandestini project, which seeks to bring together emerging writers from four Mediterranean countries, so that they are able to share thoughts, write down their ideas and eventually be provided with exposure to a wider audience.The Klandestini project aims to address some of these very vital questions and this is precisely why the British Council, Inizjamed and St. James Cavalier are so keen to work together on what we consider to be a very valuable project.
 

Ronnie Micallef, Director, British Council (Malta)

29 October, 2003

 


 

Minn Aġġornat

Bulettin ta’ kull ġimgħa maħruġ miċ-Ċentru ta’ Informazzjoni dwar Malta u l-Unjoni Ewropea (Numru: 201 Is-Sibt, 8 ta’ Novembru, 2003)

 

Ippubblikata analiżi dwar l-immigrazzjoni illegali f’Malta u pajjiżi oħra li se jissieħbu fl-UE

Esperti mill-pajjiżi membri kollha ta’ l-UE li ffurmaw Grupp ta’ Evalwazzjoni Kollettiva dwar l-immigrazzjoni illegali kitbu li l-pajjiżi membri ġodda huma fuq quddiemnett rigward iċ-ċaqliq ta’ immigranti illegali u, għal din ir-raġuni, huwa kruċjali li dawn il-pajjiżi jallineaw bis-sħiħ mal-liġijiet relevanti ta’ l-UE u japplikawkom sew. Il-Grupp ta’ Evalwazzjoni Kollettiva li twaqqaf biex jipprovdi lill-Kunsill tal-Ministri ta’ l-UE b’informazzjoni dettaljata u analiżi dwar is-sitwazzjoni bħalissa fil-qasam tal-ġustizzja u intern fil-pajjiżi kandidati. Ir-rapport tagħhom iddikjara wkoll li l-pajjiżi membri attwali ta’ l-UE m’għandhom għalfejn jinkwetaw li l-problema ta’ immigrazzjoni illegali f’Unjoni akbar bil-fors se tiżdied ladarba l-kontrolli tal-fruntieri interni jitneħħew bejn il-membri ta’ llum u l-membri l-ġodda. Minflok il-membri attwali għandhom jgħinu lil dawk ġodda biex ikollhom sehem ewlieni li l-qagħda ġeografika tagħhom tagħtihom biex iżommu immigranti illegali milli jidħlu minn pajjiżi terzi.
 


Aġġornat silet partijiet minn din l-analiżi li tikkonċerna lil Malta.

Nies ifittxu kenn
 

Il-Grupp ta’ Evalwazzjoni Kollettiva tal-Kunsill tal-Ministri dwar l-immigranti
illegali qasmu l-pajjiżi li se jissieħbu fi tliet kategoriji meta qiesu l-volum
ta’ applikazzjonijiet għal kenn.

L-ewwel kategorija: Repubblika Ċeka, Ungerija, Polonja, Slovakkja u Slovenja - b’għadd kbir ta’ nies ifittuxu kenn.

It-tieni kategorija: Ċipru,
Litwanja, Malta - jirċievu xi mijiet ta’ applikazzjonijiet għal kenn kull sena. F’Malta u Ċipru dawn l-applikazzjonijiet qed jiżdiedu. Iż-żewġ gżejjer għandhom varjetà kbira ta’ applikanti Asjatiċi u Afrikani għal kenn. Fil-każ ta’ Malta huma qed jaslu mis-Somalja, is-Sudan, l-Eritrea u l-Etjopja.

It-tielet kategorija: Estonja, Latvja - ma jidhirx li għandhom xi problema,
għallinqas għalissa.
 

Il-qagħda f’Malta ta’ l-immigranti kif jarawha esperti ta’ l-UE
 

Il-Grupp ta’ Evalwazzjoni Kollettiva qasam l-10 pajjiżi li se jissieħbu fl-UE fi tliet kategoriji rigward l-għadd ta’ immigranti illegali (li waslu, li kienu arrestati, miżmuma, deportati); kif kienu maqsuma u karatteristiċi kruċjali oħra.

L-ewwel kategorija: ir-Repubblika Ċeka, is-Slovenja, l-Ungerija, is-Slovakkja, il-Polonja - b’għadd medju ta’ immigranti illegali arrestati kull sena fil-fruntieri li jvarja bejn 4,000 u 40,000.

It-tieni kategorija: L-Estonja, il-Latvja, il-Litwanja - li għandhom numri relattivament żgħar b’medja ta’ ftit mijiet ta’ immigranti illegali arrestati kull sena.

It-tielet kategorija: Ċipru u Malta - fl-istess kategorija minħabba n-natura
speċjali tagħhom bħala gżira, bi problemi komuni. għalkemm l-għadd ta’
immigranti illegali f’Ċipru u Malta huma qrib xulxin, jidher li qed jiżviluppaw b’mod differenti. Ċipru jidher stabbli b’xejra li qed turi ftit tnaqqis. Malta, b’medja ta’ 600 persuna fis-sena laħqet rekord fl-2002 b’2,557 arrest ta’ immigranti illegali. F’Ċipru l-immigranti jaslu mis-Sirja, ir-Russja, l-Iran, it-Turkija, il-Pakistan, l-Iraq u l-Bangladexx. F’Malta jiġu mil-Libja, l-Egittu, it-Tuneżija, il-Bulgarija u l-Marokk.

 

 

Asylum seekers’ detention conditions: some suggestions

Arnold Cassola (The Malta Independent on Sunday - 8/11/2003)

 

The shocking suicide of Algerian Abdul Hakim Ghernout continues to highlight how asylum seekers in Malta are finding themselves in a desperate situation, having been detained for months on end, sometimes even more than a year. The result is acute frustration, which can lead to violent reactions, as happened recently.

 

I have spoken to the Commissioner in charge of handling asylum applications in Belgium, and he has given me the following tips, which might come in useful in Malta.

First of all, around 96% of refugees in Belgium asking for asylum are kept in open detention centres. Only a small minority are kept behind bars. The first lesson to be learnt is that the humane treatment of asylum seekers should be the unquestionable priority of the Maltese government.

Second point. In 1987, in Belgium there were 10 people handling the asylum applications. The examination of a single application could last up to 900 days. Now, the number of people working on the issue in the Belgium office has gone up to 450 people. Today, 70 per cent of requests are handled in 6 weeks. The average time for all requests put together never goes beyond 100 days.

What can we learn from the above? Well, the Maltese authorities should invest in increasing the number of personnel to handle requests for political asylum to, say, 30 people. The initial financial outlay in salaries is going to be quite tough, but the end result is that on the medium, long term we will save money since the applications will be examined in a more expedited way and the refugees would get an answer to their requests, whether positive or negative, in a relatively short time frame, thus saving them a lot of tension, suffering and frustration and us from long and expensive maintenance costs.

The third interesting point introduced by the Belgians is: the "last in, first examined" philosophy. Basically, what used to happen in former times, when the examination of asylum requests used to take up to three years, was that quite a number of non-EU citizens were encouraged to try their luck anyway at asking for refugee status, since they were guaranteed a minimum stay of around three years in Belgium before being repatriated, in the case of negative outcome for their application. Three years of life in a safe place such as Belgium, away from the poverty, misery and turmoil of the home country, was always a welcome bonus, well worth all the trouble of asking for refugee status.

In recent times, however, the Belgian authorities have decided to do away with a waiting list in chronological order for asylum seekers. So, basically, somebody who entered Belgium two years ago is still on the slow track with regards to the examination of his/her request. On the contrary, somebody who asked for refugee status two months ago has probably already had his/her application examined and the outcome, whether positive or negative, has already been communicated to the interested party.

This fast track procedure for the latest applications has managed to shorten the average waiting time of refugees enormously. This practically means that now, in Belgium, the number of asylum seekers has decreased substantially because it is only the people who are really in desperate conditions in their home countries that are going through all the hassle to have their applications examined in this European country. Those people who would not really qualify as asylum seekers are no longer finding it worthwhile to try their luck anyway, because they are realizing that - because the procedures have been speeded up- the most they can end up staying in Belgium will be two months or so, before they are repatriated. Therefore, they desist from their attempt.

Whilst keeping in mind that Belgium is a mainland country with land frontiers that are more easily accessible, whilst Malta is surrounded by sea -which makes things more difficult for potential asylum seekers-, and also keeping in mind that detention conditions in Malta are not all that attractive, the Belgian example could perhaps provide some fruit for thought to the Maltese authorities: a thirty strong division to handle asylum applications in Malta would be able to speed up the examination of these requests, and therefore, any non-bona fide persons tying to take advantage of the old loopholes in the system will find that it is no longer worth their while to try their luck for such a short stay in our country.

On the contrary, the real asylum seekers would be getting a quick positive reply to their requests and their quest for relocation in refugee accepting countries (Canada, Australia, US etc.) would be successful within a short and reasonable time.

Having said all this, I get back to the starting point of this article: the most important priority at the basis of the whole issue is the humane treatment of asylum seekers on the part of the Maltese government.

 

Arnold Cassola is AD Candidate for European Parliament Elections June 2004

arnold.cassola@alternattiva.org.mt


Media Release 5-10-2003


Parliamentary Question by European Greens and Alternattiva Demokratika on Detention Conditions of Asylum Seekers in Malta
 
Following the intervention of Prof. Arnold Cassola, Alternattiva Demokratika - The Green Party's Spokesperson for EU Affairs and Secretary General of the European Greens, Green Member of the European Parliament Helene Flautre has put a parliamentary question to the EU Commission and Council on the conditions of detention of migrants and asylum seekers in Malta.
 
Ms Flautre informed the European Council that reliable sources in Malta, including the "Jesuit Refugee Service", have pointed out that asylum seekers are being kept in very precarious conditions in Malta, even for as long as 18 months. According to official Maltese sources around 400 people - the majority of whom asylum seekers- are kept in jail for the only reason of having entered Maltese territory illegally. Moreover, these people are kept in detention without being informed of their future destiny. The Green MEP asks the European Council if it knows of this very worrying situation and if the Council recognizes that such situation goes against international law, especially the European Charter on Human rights and the Geneva 1951 convention relative to the status of refugees.
 
Finally, Ms Flautre asks the European Council what it intends doing, now that Malta is on the threshold of EU membership, to ensure that Malta adheres to its international obligations and to the EU acquis, with regards to this issue.
 
Prof. Cassola said: "Alternattiva Demokratika is for the humane treatment of asylum seekers in Malta until their application is being examined. These people should not be confined to closed detention centres deprived of their freedom of movement, but should be lodged in open centres, where they can mingle with the local population, send their children to school and lead a normal life, as far as is humanly possible". 
 
James Debono
Media Officer

 


Stqarrija għall-Mezzi tax-Xandir 5-10-2003
 

Mistoqsija parlamentari tal-Greens Ewropej dwar

Il-kundizzjonijiet ta’ dawk li qed ifittxu l-kenn f'Malta

Wara intervent tal-Kelliem ta’ l-Alternattiva Demokratika - The Green Party u dwar l-Unjoni Ewropea u Segretarju Ġenerali tal-Greens Ewropej il-Prof. Arnold Cassola, il-membru parlamentari Ewropew Helene Flautre għamlet mistoqsija parlamentari lill-Kummissjoni Ewropea u lill-Kunsill Ewropej dwar il-kundizzjonijiet ta’ l-immigranti u u ta’ dawk li qed ifittxu kenn f’Malta.
  
Ms. Flautre infurmat lill-Kummissjoni li skond sorsi ta’ min joqg
ħod fuqhom, li jinkludu l-”Jesuit Refugee Service”, dawk li qed ifittxu kenn f’Malta qed jgħixu fi stat prekarju u qed jinżammu f’detenzjoni għal perijodi twal, anki ta’ 18-il xahar. Skond sorsi uffiċjali Maltin madwar 400 persuna, il-maġġoranza tagħhom nies li qed ifittxu kenn f’Malta, qed jinżammu f’detenzjoni sempliċiment għax daħlu Malta illegalment. Aktar minn hekk dawn in-nies qed jinżammu f’detenzjoni mingħajr ma jiġu infurmati dwar id-destin tagħhom. Il-membru parlamentari tal-Greens qed issaqsi lill-Kunsill Ewropej jekk jinsabx infurmat dwar din is-sitwazzjoni li tqajjem tħassib u jekk il-Kunsill jirrikonoxxix li din is-sitwazzjoni hi waħda ta’ ksur tal-liġi internazzjonali, speċjalment tal-karta Ewropea dwar id-drittijiet tal-bniedem u l-konvenzjoni ta’ Ġinevra ta’ l-1951 dwar ir-refuġjati.

Finalment Ms Flautre saqsiet lill-Kunsill Ewropew dwar x’se jagħmel, issa li Malta qiegħda fuq l-għatba ta’ l-Unjoni Ewropea, biex jiżgura li Malta taderixxi għall-obbligi internazzjonali tagħha u għall-acquis ta’ l-Unjoni Ewropea dwar din il-kwistjoni.
  
Il-Prof. Cassola sostna: “Alternattiva Demokratika hija favur it-trattament uman tan-nies li qed ifittxu kenn f’Malta sakemm l-applikazzjoni tagħhom tiġi eżaminata. Dawn in-nies m’għandhomx jinżammu f’detenzjoni u m’għandhomx jiġu mċaħħda mid-dritt li jiċċaqalqu, iżda għandhom jinżammu f’ċentri miftuħa, jibagħtu t-tfal tagħhom fl-iskejjel u jgħixu
ħajja normali f’kundizzjonijiet li jirrispettaw l-umanità tagħhom”. 
 
James Debono
Media Officer

 

The Sunday Times
9/11/2003
 
Refugees in Malta - a Maltese and European concern

Arnold Cassola
 
It should not take a foreigner to tell us how we should behave in our own country. Perhaps we should have done so much better that there would have been no need at all. Since our country has hit the headlines abroad regarding the treatment of asylum seekers, it is wise to weigh carefully what a foreigner like Alvaro Gil Robles, the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner, has had to say. Even more so, after the suicide of an Algerian immigrant, Abdul Hakim Ghernout Omar, last week. Mr Gil Robles has made it very clear with our government that we should provide more humane conditions for seekers of refugee status and illegal immigrants. He has also pointed out to our authorities that they are simply taking too long to decide on the granting of refugee status to those asking for it, and therefore he is exhorting the Maltese government to speed up the administrative process regarding refugee status seekers. Not content with that, he has strongly condemned the fact that illegal immigrants are being detained by the authorities for prolonged periods while their applications are being processed.


How have our political parties reacted? Interior Minister Tonio Borg bleated that at present Malta is trying to cope, as best as it can, with an emergency. Government has no intention of spending public funds to build a new detention centre, instead of other projects such as social housing. One has to consider that a detention centre is not a home. Dr Borg added that the government is doing its utmost to expedite the process for refugee status applications by illegal immigrants now in detention centres. He claimed that these centres are no different from those in other European countries, and are subject to inspections by local and foreign organisations.
 

What Dr Borg fails to highlight is how the Maltese government is trying to expedite the process.
 

Labour Party spokesmen had a mixed reaction. Joseph Abela agreed with Gil Robles that it was not right to subject asylum-seekers to long periods of detention. His colleague José Herrera begged to differ and wrote in The Times: "Personally, however, I find no hesitation in publicly declaring that I am in agreement with the position being taken by Gavin Gulia, Opposition spokesman for home affairs. In my opinion, he has taken a very prudent and cautious approach to the matter". Which basically means: endorsing the detention philosophy...

"On the one hand, Gulia reiterates the Labour Party's position that in the circumstances, our country has no option but to continue to detain illegal immigrants. On the other, he rightly emphasises the need to upgrade the living quarters and improve their quality of life as much as possible." For Gulia and Herrera the immigrants should continue in detention so long as they are not in unbearable conditions.
 

For us Greens, there is no doubt about it: humane treatment comes first and foremost. I reiterate that we should all be in favour of more humane treatment for asylum-seekers and irregular migrants and therefore the government cannot but heed the recommendations made by Mr Gil Robles. All possible attempts should be made to shorten procedures that asylum seekers have to undergo before they are granted refugee status or refused it. Mr Gil-Robles himself has confirmed that some asylum seekers are kept in detention in Malta for as much as two years. This is simply inhumane. All caring Maltese should support Mr Gil-Robles's recommendation for the introduction of a maximum time limit within which the immigrants get to know of their destiny, irrispective of whether the decision is a positive one or not.
 

It simply makes no sense that people who have committed no crime except the breach of immigration regulations are basically being treated like criminals, and sometimes in even worse conditions than convicted criminals. Detention should only be used as a means of last resort and asylum seekers should be accommodated in open centres.
 

Temporary work permits should be granted to asylum-seekers so that they would be more self-sufficient during their stay in Malta. They and all other foreign workers should be guaranteed basic working conditions to avoid their exploitation and the fear of other workers that they are being undercut. Having said all this, the problem of the near-weekly influx of people fleeing from misery, wars and poverty to our little island remains and has to be tackled. A step in the right direction, in my opinion, would be for the Maltese government to make strong pressure on the European Union to consider the problem of illegal human trafficking as a European problem, and not a Maltese one.

This would mean that it would be the EU's duty to pay for the maintenance of asylum-seekers who find themselves in Malta, as in any other external frontier region of the EU, such as Italy, Spain, Estonia or Latvia. As from next May, entry into Malta from outside the EU will virtually mean entry into the whole EU. It is therefore the EU's duty to ensure that a common European fund is created for the maintenance of refuge-seekers in border countries like Malta.
 

The horrible business of trafficking humans may never be totally eradicated. The financial and human resources of our small country are too limited to be able to partrol the international waters surrounding our country. What we need is an EU maritime policing force, financed through a common European budget, to patrol international waters to stop this disgusting trade in human beings.
 

But this is not enough. To fight the illegal traffickers who thrive on the misery of so many poor people on the southern shores of the Mediterranean and beyond, it is the EU's duty to promote investments for working opportunities in these countries. Work created in situ will mean fewer people trying to flee to Europe. Agreements have to be reached with the Maghreb region governments so that they do not encourage this illegal trade of helpless human beings.
 

Let us hope that our government does move in this humane direction.

arnold.cassola@alternattiva.org.mt

 
 

December 5, 2003

 

Detention not the most cost-effective measure

When the number of detainees was at its highest, Dr. Camilleri continued, the cost of their upkeep by the police corps was around Lm37,000 a day. She explained that when a detainee needs to be hospitalised, the police have to fork out the wages of five officers – four shifts around the clock and another on stand-by.

“Studies show that detention is not the most cost-effective measure,” she told those present, adding that the aim of the seminar was to find holistic solutions for the asylum seekers to be received within Maltase society.

Richmond Foundation chief executive Doris Gauci and physician Marvic Sammut have worked with detainees. The two women spoke about the psychological and emotional effects of detention, based on their observation and experience with the detainees.

Most detainees travelled across Africa before boarding the boat which brought them to Malta.

“They came from a war-torn country, where many experienced brutality, saw family members killed – sometimes they had been imprisoned,” Ms Gauci said.

Separation was a major experience most asylum seekers had to go through. Sometimes, said Ms Gauci, the illegal immigrants had already been detained in other countries before arriving in Malta, only to be detained again.

The most painful experience the detainees go through is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which manifests itself in a number of physical and emotional symptoms. Thoughts of suicide are not uncommon, mostly among those who have either been bereaved or else are suffering from PTSD.

“Many go through a sense of grief: they have lost their home, their possessions, their loved ones, their community and even their sense of self”.

 

http://www.independent.com.mt/daily/newsview.asp?id=22387

 


 

Only five people to process applications by asylum seekers
Cynthia Busuttil

The government’s policy of indefinite detention for asylum seekers means that people are inevitably detained for a long period of time.

Very often, the long detention period is the result of the limited human resources at the refugee commission, which is therefore conducive to a long time being taken to process the migrants’ applications, said Dr Katrine Camilleri from the Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta).

In fact, she said, during a seminar held at Mount St Joseph on Wednesday, only five people are employed to process all the applications, which makes it next to impossible for this to be done in a limited time, and therefore a backlog is created.

But more than the long detention time, the major concern is the conditions in which the illegal immigrants are detained.

Wednesday’s seminar, aptly entitled Detention nearly killed my soul, highlighted some different aspects of detention: the legal, the psychological and the social.

Dr Camilleri pointed out that since November 2001, Malta has seen an unprecedented increase in the arrivals of illegal immigrants. She said that what was notable about these last two years was the fact that whole family units, including women and children, were arriving on the boats.

Today, there are around 600 immigrants in detention centres. They are all prohibited immigrants according to the immigration law, and as they have applied for refugee status, they have become asylum seekers.
 

http://www.independent.com.mt/daily/newsview.asp?id=22386

 


 

Sudden loss of hope occurs 10 months into detention

Dr Sammut said that around 10 months into detention there is a sudden loss of hope, and over the following seven months there is a sharp deterioration in both the physical and mental health of the individual.

“Several have had to be referred to the psychiatric outpatients department, and some have even been admitted into psychiatric care,” she said.

Children and adolescents were also experiencing psychological problems, which were similar to those of adults. Dr Sammut said it is of special concern that some repeatedly express suicidal wishes, and she brought the example of a 13-year-old girl who did so.

A typical day in a detention centre starts with breakfast, followed by visits to hospital or health centres, while the older children go to school. The day also includes the cleaning of the quarters and irregular chores, the midday meal and in the late afternoon the detainees spend an hour in the grounds. There is no meaningful activity and detainees have very little to look forward to, with no specific activities to compensate for their trauma, said Dr Sammut.

Dr Sammut and Ms Gauci related the experiences of three detainees. Two of them, a 22-year-old Eritrean woman and a 36-year-old man from Liberia, ended up in a psychiatric hospital, while the physical and psychological health of a 16-year-old Ethiopian girl had improved dramatically since she had been integrated into the community.

Dr John Pace, from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, described asylum seekers as people who are looking for a life somewhere other than their own country, mostly because of socio-economic issues. He said the solution used is detention of the asylum seekers, and there is no concerted international effort.

As long as the issue is looked at as an individual problem, and not as a global one, said Dr Pace, it would not only be unresolved, but made worse.

University of Malta social policy lecturer Charles Pace also spoke about the issue. He said there are a number of alternatives to detention – people could be released under the supervision of non-governmental organisations; young people could be placed under the supervision of social service entities; asylum seekers could be released into society against a personal guarantee; they could have liberty with restrictions as to where they could go; open centres could be utilised.

“Australia and Malta seem to be the only countries fond of detention,” he said.

Attending the seminar was AFM commander Rupert Montanaro who, apart from speaking in his capacity as commander of the AFM, also gave his opinion as a citizen. He asked: “If we let them free, will they be out of Malta in no time?” Brigadier Montanaro said the treaty Malta has with Italy stipulates that if any detainees escape from Malta and go to Italy, the Italian authorities will send them back at the expense of their Maltese counterparts.

Antoinette Zammit from the Red Cross said no board has been set up to really study the situation and she also spoke about the variety of the food which the detainees are given. However, Brig. Montanaro was quick to jump up and ask Ms Zammit to substantiate this claim. He said that the army spends a lot of money on the food given to the detainees.

Ms Zammit continued, saying that certain small things can help the detainees’ condition. She said these people already have high acidity levels because of their stress, and they are given oranges every day. She also said that once they are being kept in detention, it should be ensured that they have the basic necessities.

“These people need someone to talk to,” she said.

Mount Carmel chairman Louis Bonnici said the situation is putting a considerable strain on the police, the armed forces and even hospitals.

Jesuit Refugee Service (Malta) director Pierre Grech Marguerat (left) said the only way to move forward in this situation is through dialogue. He said there have been some improvements over the past year, but there was still a lot to be done.

 

Malta e il progetto di scrittura Klandestini

Intervista a Karsten Xuereb, di Valerio Cruciani

  1. Karsten Xuereb: presentati brevemente ai lettori. Quando sei nato, gli studi fatti, il tuo lavoro.

Sono nato il 25 aprile 1978, a San Giljan, dove vivo tutt’ora. San Giljan era un villaggio di pescatori. Oggi è più la mecca di chi vuole uscire la sera, fare affari o cuccare le turiste. Un altro tipo di pesca...io ho fatto lettere all’università a Malta, dove ho studiato  lingua e  letteratura antica e contemporanea inglese e americana, e quella contemporanea d’Africa, Asia e Australia, insieme al cinema. Ho lavorato alla tv e alla radio, facendo programmi educativi e culturali e con delle associazioni maltesi che si occupano di letteratura, teatro e arte visiva, in veste di manager culturale.

  1. Illustra il progetto Klandestini, la sua origine, le sue linee guida. Il tuo ruolo all'interno di Klandestini? I tuoi colleghi?

Klandestini è nato dopo un lungo periodo di discussione tra il British Council a Malta e Inizjamed, che sono i coordinatori di questo progetto. Si voleva trovare il modo di creare lo spazio per la scrittura di giovani scrittori dal Mediterraneo. La difficolta’ che questi trovano ad esprimersi e far viaggiare i loro testi è diventata il tema stesso del progetto. Il giovane scrittore del Mediterraneo (come tanti altri scrittori di ogni età e di altre parti del mondo) non fa lo scrittore a tempo pieno. Molte volte é difficile anche scrivere regolarmente, per vari impegni come  lo studio e il lavoro. Ecco perché ‘klandestini’: tanti scrittori scrivono ‘clandestinamente’, mentre  vivono di tutt’altra cosa, osservando ma stando attenti a non esseri presi. Come dicono in inglese, on the run.

Durante questo anno una trentina di scrittori, ma non solo, si stanno impegnando e creare uno spazio comune per una scrittura che tratta questo tema o, se vogliono, la ‘clandestinità’ vera, quella antropologica, in altre parole quella dell’immigrato. Gli scrittori lavoreranno nei loro stessi paesi, cioè Cipro, la Grecia, la Turchia, l’Italia e Malta. Si faranno guidare da scrittori provenienti dalla Gran Bretagna, più affermati e con esperienza nei loro progetti. Per esempio a Malta ci sarà Maurice Riordan, poeta del Galles e la poetessa Irlandese Sinéad Morrissey a Cipro. Del lavoro di coordinazione è responsabile Inizjamed, insieme al British Council di Malta, Londra, e dei paesi partecipanti. Io sono il Coordinatore del Progetto. Insieme ai miei compagni dell’organizzazione e dei paesi partner creo la struttura necessaria per gli scrittori per poter scrivere, usare il sito web (vedi http://klandestini.britishcouncil.org e http://inzjamed.cjb.net versione italiana) per comunicare tra di loro e mettere su le PR e le strutture posteriori alla fine del progetto a dicembre 2004.

  1. Quali sono i paesi coinvolti e quale è lo scopo del progetto?

Come ho detto ci sono Cipro, la Grecia, la Turchia, l’Italia e Malta. Lo scopo principale é quello di agevolare la scrittura dei partecipanti, e dargli uno spazio che dura un anno per lavorare sul proprio testo. Allo stesso tempo hanno la possibilità di vedere e criticare i lavori degli altri: questo sicuramente avrà un effetto sul lavoro propio. Lo scopo piu ampio é quello di creare su un network da non dissolversi dopo l’arco di quest’anno. I contatti che si stanno facendo ora possono durare e creare delle affinità e collaborazioni interessanti nel futuro.

  1. Parlaci della realtà culturale di Malta: come vive e come si vive la cultura nel tuo Paese? Che rapporti intrattiene con l'Italia e col mondo anglosassone? Che ruolo ha nel Mediterraneo e in Europa?

Questa é una gran bella domanda! In poche righe non posso dare una descrizione completa della cultura a Malta. Prima di tutto perché ci sono un bel po’ di realtà culturali a Malta, alcune che non mi viene facile aggrupare insieme ad altre. Ci sono le espressioni di natura anglosassone, come lo sono la pantomima di Natale, i mezzi di comunicazione in inglese e il teatro che é ossessianato da pezzi contemporanei anglo-americani. Dall’altro lato ci sono quelle più italiane, come l’opera a Gozo, il vino e il caffé nei posti di cultura e l’amore per Sanremo! Storicamente la sezione piu istruita e colta di Malta era più vicina alla cultura italiana. Ma anni di imperialismo britannico hanno lasciato il loro segno, e oggi, quel segno lo sappiamo anche sfruttare per aprirci piu strade.

Politicamente e culturalmente Malta non é forte, ma nella storia abbiamo avuto alcuni leader in questi campi che sono stati furbi abbastanza da sfruttare le opportunità che ci sono venute. Quello di cui abbiamo bisogno ora, specialmente di fronte all’accesso all’UE, é di gente di ampie vedute che possa creare strutture e occasioni da cui possa trarre profitto il paese intero, più che delle nicchie particolari. Dei film che si girano regolarmente a Rinella, nel Sudest di Malta, come Gladiator o Troy, c’e’ sempre qualcuno che approfitta: perché non trovare il modo di coinvolgere una più gran parte dell’economia locale, e mettere su un’industria sostenibile? L’argomento é diverso quando si parla di espressioni culturali meno gigantesche, come la musica classica, la letteratura o il teatro sperimentale. Però, c’e’ un problema simile: il talento c’é, la voglia di lavorare c’é, ma molte volte non si trova il modo di fare gli individui, o dei nuclei piccoli, lavorare sul serio insieme. Questo succede da per tutto, ma in un paese di sole 400,000 persone, questo significa che raggiungere dei livelli professionali, e in modo regolare, é molto difficile.

  1. Quali sono i problemi principali che devono affrontare gli scrittori emergenti che partecipano al progetto?

Anche se c’é una struttura per aiutare gli scrittori a scrivere, i partecipanti devono metterci molto del loro. Devono trovare il tempo per ricercare il loro materiale, il tempo per scrivere e il tempo per leggere i lavori degli altri. Se gli scrittori stanno  per conto loro e alla fine mandano un testo completo, non si sarà aggiunto niente di nuovo. Tutti i partecipanti devono avere la curiosità di cercare la storia dietro al loro vicino, compagno, collega, e mettere su una comunicazione fluida. Vorrei tanto che gli scrittori usino il concetto del progetto come un arnese per mettere su una comunita’ piu’ vasta di scrittori e lettori, e non solo come una vetrina per mostrare il propio lavoro. Vorrei vedere dei lavoro nati in collaborazione e che prima di arrivare alla fase finale siano passati da vari livelli di critica e composizione. Sono fiducioso che gli scrittori scelti dai paesi partecipanti condividono questo visione e che faranno un bel lavoro.

  1. Perché Klandestini secondo te è un progetto importante? Quali sono gli enti che lo sostengono?

Per gli scrittori, il progetto é importante perché tenta di raggiungere degli obiettivi che li aiuteranno a scrivere meglio, ed essere letti di più. Per gli enti organizzativi é molto importante perché mette in pratica quello in cui credono e quello che sono nate per fare. Il British Council da anni lavora nel campo culturale e educativo in più di 200 paesi con l’obiettivo di far incontrare e collaborare su progetti in cui si identificano persone di culture, razze e religioni diverse. Il St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, a Valletta, che ci ospita regolarmente nei suoi spazi e ci aiuta a pubblicizzare e organizzare gli eventi connessi  a Klandestini sta usando le proprie capacità a un livello internazionale, e dopo soli 3 anni di attività, sta riempendo degli spazi che altrimenti, sarebbero rimasti vuoti. Per Inizjamed l’interesse é quello letterario, e allo stesso tempo quello di lavorare insieme a delle persone in gamba e interessanti nel Mediterraneo e nella Gran Bretagna.

  1. Quando e come si svolgerà il festival?

Il Festival si svolgerà a Novembre, al St James a Malta. Al momento ha il nome di Festival di Letteratura Emergente del Mediterraneo, perché rappresenterà i migliori pezzi che verranno fuori dall’anno di lavoro. Ci saranno dei rappresentanti da tutti i paesi partecipanti, insieme a una rassegna di arte visiva che si dovrebbe mettere su nello stesso periodo a Valletta.


Inizjamed

Literary Encounters and the Writer’s Solitude

(This article is the first of two about Inizjamed; the present one introduces the group, the second, in the next issue of Orbis, will allow for an in-depth interview).

 

Inizjamed: the word is a compound of two morphemes, one, inizja [start!], interpretable as an imperative, the other, Med, as an abbreviation for Mediterranean. It therefore suggests an invocation, or a hankering after something to be started in the Sea that washes shores where, throughout history and again in the present, there has hardly been any absence of far-reaching events. In fact, the word is the name for a group of upcoming Maltese writers whose enterprise is clarification enough: the compound’s first morpheme should in fact suggest inizjattiva, and the use of Med is not a sign of any fat-headed expectation of how matters Maltese could be projected onto a wider prospect through, well, initiative.

 

This much emerges during discussion with Adrian Grima, one of the group’s founders, when I meet him and two other members of the group, Karsten Xuereb and Norbert Bugeja, at Inizjamed’s office in the National Pool complex in Gzira (a space made available through the Ministry for Youth, Sport, Culture, and the Arts). Adrian explains that when the group was set up in 1998 it came very close to calling itself Misraħ, but that there soon arose some dissatisfaction with that choice because the connotations of a writer’s agora, as well as the claim on a putative authenticity suggested by the more ‘purely’ Arabic-sourced word, risked the clichéd and the facile. The name Inizjamed was confirmed instead. It suits. Inizjamed have, over the past year alone, demonstrated extraordinary initiative. They are making things happen, and the events they are instigating do look as if they are set to leave an imprint beyond Maltese contexts, in the Mediterranean and indeed elsewhere.

 

What they are making happen is indeed diverse. One defining Inizjamed event was the organisation in 2002 of Bliet (u Miti). It sought ‘to revisit the Maltese “imaginary,” the picture that the Maltese have painted of themselves while in the process of “creating” themselves as a nation’, and which led to an interesting publication, named after the event, that included ‘short, previously unpublished articles that deal with the topical issue of Malta’s cultural identity and the way that it has been constructed and a number of literary works by some of Malta’s most interesting writers’ (www.geocities.com/inizjamed/bliet_ktieb.htm). The drafting of different art forms and discourses into one event is something of an Inizjamed characteristic, though a certain privileging of writing over, say, painting or theatre remains a feature of the group (which, it is worth noting, originally perceived itself as an organisation that ‘promotes socially and politically committed culture and actively promotes a greater awareness of the Mediterranean and its cultural and environmental realities’—http://www.geocities.com/inizjamed/about_inizjamed.htm). Additionally, Inizjamed’s activities have extended to the organisation of encounters between members of the group and writers from the Mediterranean; these encounters, most of which were open to the public, have helped to redimensionalise that time-honoured event on the Maltese literary scene: the ‘poetry evening’ (or the ‘musico-literary evening’). They have helped Inizjamed forge links with a number of similar groups in Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus. All of this led recently to some notable ‘scoops’, as, for instance, in the group’s co-hosting, with the British Council, of the visit of the British poet Benjamin Zephaniah and the Irish poet Sinéad Morrissey. 

 

But perhaps Inizjamed’s greatest breakthrough yet has been Klandestini, which is coordinated by Karsten Xuereb. It is described on Inizjamed’s website as ‘a multilateral creative writing project run by Inizjamed (Malta) and the British Council, with the support of the St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, Valletta’, and it runs between October 2003 and December 2004. The primary aim is ‘to have creative writing workshops led by well-established writers based in the UK for new writers, writing in their native language, and having their works translated into English so they can communicate with other writers in various countries’. For Maltese writers, the mentor is Maurice Riordan, who teaches creative writing at Imperial College, London and who is the author of two significant collections of poetry, A Word from the Loki and Floods, published by Faber and Faber.

 

Klandestini (the word, in Maltese, is the designation for illegal immigrants) takes as its cue the plight of the illegal immigrant and allegorises it into an expression of the Maltese writer’s predicament. The relation is given effective articulation on the website by Stanley Borg, a member of the group: ‘Both emerging writers and klandestini are uncertain about their past, curious of their future, uncomfortable in a present where they are both trying to make a break, to be included in an uncanny, communal ‘something’. Both are homeless, clandestine, changing their world by changing their homeland. Both sail between two extremes, from the nourishing milk turned sour of a jilted motherland and the promised honey of a new unknown, towards which they journey. Once disembarked on foreign soil, emerging writers and klandestini remain unsettled yet involved in the maintenance of their native culture which has refused or misunderstood them – they feed it, nourish it to keep it breathing, perhaps to see it heal and heave with laughter and dance.’ That is the pitch; the bottom line is that Klandestini will bring a neglected aspect of the literature of the Mediterranean to the fore. Ronnie Micallef, the Director of the Maltese office of the British Council, with whom Inizjamed are collaborating, puts the case well. ‘A search through the bookshelves of any major British bookstore for an authentic voice speaking out for young Mediterranean people today can be very disappointing. Where are the stories which deal with the deeper realities beneath the tourist-brochure gloss of Mediterranean towns? Can this reality be considered only in the light of endless days in hammocks in beautiful Tuscan, Cretan or Gozitan farmhouses, as the Amazon book selector seems to suggest? Does the wider world understand the tensions, frustrations, hopes and aspirations of the new generation of Mediterranean writers? Indeed, can we even refer to Mediterranean writers as representing a specific genre? This in itself raises an all-important question - what does it take to make an international publisher aware of the scant attention at present being paid to the sometimes harsh realities of everyday living in the Mediterranean region?’  (www.geocities.com/inizjamedmalta/klandestini.htm). Hence Klandestini hopes to offer Maltese and other Mediterranean writers the chance of their work being translated and finding broader readerships.

 

What strikes me in all this is that it is reminiscent of some of the points touched upon in the interview with Immanuel Mifsud, in the last issue of Orbis: most notably, the recognition that for Maltese literature the next frontier must be a coordinated (rather than piecemeal or individual) effort to find a presence, through translation, in the consciousness of foreign readerships, and the fact that Maltese writers find themselves marginalised from literature’s most prominent markets. This leads me to think about two issues.

 

First, is there something that Inizjamed are not making happen that perhaps they should, or something that they are making happen that they should perhaps be steering clear of? I wonder, for instance, about whether they risk becoming, to all intents and purposes, that very strange entity: a kind of unofficial or ‘alternative’ (as in ‘indie’) Arts (or, at any rate, Literature) Council. Not least because Inizjamed sees itself as ‘a cultural organisation’ (rather, than, say, a ‘writers’ collective’), this could instigate a number of negative reactions: condescension, opprobrium, even jealousies (for, as is well known, even ‘alternative’ movements create their ‘centres’ and their ‘outside’). The opposite danger is also very real, but I am assured that the group is painfully aware of the danger of becoming stultifyingly established, of losing what it is about it that is radically inventive. I get a sense that the slight sense of grievance felt within the group at the fact that it is not always given its due in some quarters is, for that reason, seen as a blessing in disguise. In this respect, Inizjamed’s association with the British Council, a body that can hardly be considered to be removed from the centre of things, is doubtless an opportunity but also a test of how the group means to position itself in future. 

 

The second issue is related to a possibly discomfiting reflection, and has to do with the fact that Inizjamed’s purpose brings it disconcertingly home that in literature, as in business, location is paramount. Much of what Inizjamed stands for would be unnecessary (or at least it would be approached differently) if its circumstances were not defined by the very strange particularity of Maltese literature. It is a particularity that becomes tangible when registering the deep poignancy of Maltese writers’ necessity to always be doing other things. By other things I am not referring, here, to the non-writing activities which keep Maltese writers in employment. The obvious point that the reality of the Maltese publishing market makes it difficult, if not impossible, for anybody to live on the proceeds of their writing remains facile unless it is followed up with an intuition of what it means, for a writer anywhere, to have only very problematically (and perhaps not at all) the opportunity to accede to what Maurice Blanchot called the writer’s solitude. ‘What [the  literary work] says is exclusively this: that it is—and nothing more. Beyond that it is nothing. Whoever wants to make it express more finds nothing …. He whose life depends upon the work … belongs to the solitude of that which expresses nothing except the word being: the word which language shelters by hiding it, or causes to appear when language itself disappears into the silent void of the work’ (The Space of Literature [1955], trans. Linda Davis, University of Nebraska Press, 1982). Blanchot’s idea appears apolitical in its vision, but is in fact very political in its implicit assumption that the writer’s solitude can come about independently of what a writer must do to attain some visibility for his work. In fact, as the Maltese writer knows too well, for Maltese works a certain kind of visibility is possible only through translation. Because of those realities, Maltese writers cannot just write or cultivate solitude—but must chase, if what is in view is a readership that is not only local but a broader-based one heartily admitting them to the ranks of Weltliteratur, after encounters that might see them translated from a language that is both their opportunity but also their limit. Doing, for them, is always coimplicated with being. For Maltese writers, then, a presence elsewhere is not only consequent upon the disciplining of their craft or the pursuit of their art, or upon such practicalities as finding an agent or working with a publisher’s editor, but, and at least as crucially, upon making sure their encounters lead somewhere. Inizjamed, whose very ethos is encounter, thereby faces two pretty problems:

 

1.  It will find it hard to dispel the impression of a certain wannabeism, even though its motivation is clearly laudable and its activities a very welcome counter against insularity and against a complacent accommodation to a local readership and market.

 

2.  Its success can only be measured by the extent to which it understands, and communicates the understanding, that the Maltese writer cannot just write, that for the Maltese writer writing is just the start and, indeed, perhaps the easy part.

 

It has been a good year for Inizjamed, and another good year beckons. If the latter is very good, it should be a good and a very interesting year for Maltese literature, and one which as far as Inizjamed is concerned will culminate in the Festival of Emerging Mediterranean Writers to be held at St. James Cavalier, Valletta, in November 2004: an event with ‘the active participation of writers from all participating countries and local artists’, where ‘the best works will be collected prior to the festival, and presented in book form and/or online during the festival’. This is indeed something to look forward to, but, in the end, some caution is perhaps warranted. For there is a third and more critical problem for Inizjamed to keep sight of, and that is that the writer’s initiative will go far only as long as it is complemented by an understanding of the writer’s essential solitude. In the end, the writing, however easy a part of a more complex whole it is, is what is going to be determining. In all their encounters, therefore, what one should most benignly wish upon Inizjamed is solitude.

 

Dr. Ivan Callus

Published in Orbis, Volume 2/4 (January 2004)


The Maurice Riordan Workshop

Comments

 

I'm sure the workshop was inspiring in a lot of ways for everyone. Maurice was great to pin point particular aspects of our writing and give us suggestions about how to make it better. Most of all, I think that listening to the others' writings and criticism was the most enriching experience I've ever had as a budding writer. We should do it more often!

 

Claudia Fiorini

16.2.04

 

 

Riordan laqatni immens. Sibtu kittieb interessanti - kemm fil-kitba tiegħu, kemm fl-ideat li qasam mal-grupp b'mod li jidhirli li kien effettiv ħafna. Bniedem aċċessibbli u ġenwin għall-aħħar. Wara ġurnata workshop ma stajtx nitlaq il-poeżiji tieghu minn idejja. Għandi ħeġġa kbira nara x'se jkun l-effett fuq il-kitba tiegħi.

 

Simone Inguanez

16.2.04

 

  We are beginning to write like nomads with a strong sense of place. A shift
from the romantic musings of star and sea to curly tomato, crusty bread,
price of lipstick, languid futile sundays with lovers who don't talk,
frustrated teachers and mothers still traumatised by 9/11, was the surest
sign that things are moving in the right direction.... and best of all our
strong humour came through. We're not normally very good at making fun of
ourselves. Perhaps humour in writing can be explored further.

The feeling of isolation could perhaps be tackled head on. We need to be
more aware of how people are writing today. Especially in terms of modern
poetry.

The  'localised' identity, or lack of it, is central to many Maltese
writers. Perhaps it doesn't need to be so. Having an objective voice
comment on the mechanics of the work helped the writers to think less about
what they write and more about how they are writing it.

What came through was a strong young personal voice,  so the sense of not
belonging or belonging is becoming secondary to the writing. It sounds like
young Maltese writers are writing with a strong sense of person. The place
as canvas and the language itself are enough to make the work specific and
Maltese.

There were times during the workshop when I thought much was lost in
translation (perhaps writers should come prepared with their work translated
to allow for more specific feedback from mentor), but one advantage of this
instantaneous translation was that the transmission of each person's work in
skeletal form allowed for analysis on plot structure and technique, opening
up ways to infiltrate the tradition of Maltese writing with 'loose' style
rather than 'radical' subject.

 

Emma Mattei

17.2.04

 

 

Understanding seemed to travel from Maurice to the writers and back in a clandestine fashion, since parts of the texts and words spoken were in English, while others were in Maltese. While this did not make all of the communicating process easy and clear, it created a "third language", what can be descibed as the "klandestini" language: this attracted Maurice's attention and inspired the writers in their work. Hopefully, this language will develop and share its themes and styles with the wide audience the project aims to achieve.

 

Karsten Xuereb

17.2.04

 

 

Unfortunately I missed the reading part of the workshop, which from the above
comments seems to have been the most interesting. Personally, the first part of
the workshop did not really move me. I think we have to go beyond writing
exercises and tackle writing in workshops in a more experimental way.

The 'proper name' or 'movement' exercises were too solitary for comfort,
despite the essential function of a writer being solitary in itself. Yet I do
think a collective effort should come prior to this detachment or moving away to
write in solitude. A mini-collaboration or exercise would have been interesting
to create 'duets' between writers who, as I have gathered from the Inizjamed
meetings, all seem to have different ideas about the 'klandestini' theme. Such
'duets' or 'duels' would have confirmed whether a writer is on the right track
or not.  Furthermore, a discussion on translation and the losing in translation
would have been appropriate.

Nonetheless, I do not wish to remove any of Maurice's merits both as a mentor
and especially as a writer. I do not have any perseverance when it comes to
belief, so the above criticism could be attributed to fragments of my
personality or writing process.

 

Stanley Borg

18.2.04

 
 
 

To be honest with you all, my first response was to become terribly depressed, incompetent, pathetic and extremely disillusioned. 

 

I have been made to realize that if I ever want to become a good writer I have to create a split between the abstract and the concrete. Due to the great influence ‘philosophy’ has on me, I tend to write in a philosophical tone or as Maurice Riordan pointed out, tend to go on to abstract writing. I believed it was working out fine till Sunday, but the workshop made me aware that I was on the wrong track. This made me feel apprehensive and confused.

 

The initial reaction was to give up and to forget about writing altogether. ‘Change’ is not easy, especially if it involves changing something you believed in and which you made your own. However, Today made me want to take of my coat of insecurities and added looser attitude, and try, in some miserable way, to collect the pieces of my old writing frame and build something new. I have never attended a writing workshop or ever been given the possibility to learn something constructive about writing. This opportunity is the first step towards a totally different ‘journey’. I might find out that I really am hopeless and inadequate as a writer but I want to prove that to myself before I give up! 

 

Besides coming to terms with my deficient writing style, Maurice pointed out some techniques that make a piece of writing of a better quality and even more interesting, namely the use of proper names, the “being editorial” issue and the focus on “polarity”. Thank you Maurice.

 

Listening to fellow writers read out their texts made me understand better what makes writing valuable. Thanks to you all. It wasn’t easy to read out a text one just thought of and wrote in a matter of about 30 minutes. I chickened out.

 

I also want to thank Adrian for helping me to go through an even deeper stylistic crisis. The mini group discussion, during our lunch break, enabled me to become sensitive to a trap I might have easily fallen into. Stories should not be written as a means of reflection verging on the philosophical. A story should be narrative - nothing more and nothing less! As Adrian said, a text should not give you the feeling that a moral or some kind of philosophical insight begs to be squeezed out of it! A person’s artistic strength and learnt techniques are what make a narrative story more interesting or less interesting!

 

Rebecca Scerri

18-02-2004

 

Works in Progress Seminar Series - 2004

Understanding Cultural Diversity

 

Articulating the Klandestini Experience

Literary and Refugee Voices

 

The next seminar in the Works in Progress Seminar Series at the University of Malta which is now in its eight year, will be held on Wednesday 28th April, 2004, between 6.00pm and 7.30pm, in Room 122, Mediterranean Institute, behind HSBC on campus.

 

This ninth session, “Articulating the Klandestini experience: Literary and Refugee Voices,” will be chaired by Dr. Adrian Grima and will take the form of a roundtable with two short presentations by Mr. Popol Mubetsambila and Mr. Norbert Bugeja followed by a discussion with all those present. This session is inspired both by the theme of this year’s series of seminars which is Understanding Cultural Diversity and by the Klandestini international creative writing project for Emerging Mediterranean Writers run by Inizjamed and the British Council.

 

Mr. Popol Mubetsambila (right) is president of the Congolese community in Malta. He left the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2001 when war broke out and has been in Malta for one year seven months. Before he left Congo he studied medicine for one year at the University of Kinshasa. Mr. Mubetsambila is now an interpreter with the UNHCR in Malta. At the seminar he will be sharing his experience and that of many other refugees in Malta.

 

Mr. Norbert Bugeja (left) is currently reading for an MA in English Literature at the University of Malta. His academic interests lie in contemporary critical theory and postcolonial fiction. He is one of the writers participating in the multilateral creative writing project Klandestini.

 

For the upcoming Maltese, Italian, Greek and Cypriot writers taking part in the Klandestini project, writes Norbert Bugeja, “the notion of “klandestini” beckons from out there, leaving, above all, much to be narrated.”  “What does it mean to say that the “emergent” writer today is, after his or her own way, “clandestine”? Should today’s aspiring writer be taking up such thorny issues as immigration, clandestinity and asylum seeking as a driving concern of their writing? Or should a ‘non-established’ writer assert their right of asylum precisely by taking stock of their very bereavement, vis-a-vis a dumped homeland, in the face of a literary ‘tradition’ that cannot, if it ever could, provide them with a shelter any longer? How does it feel to live in the lingering shade of the Romantics with the roving metaphor of homelessness as a guiding star? Should the “Klandestini” writers belong anywhere, after all, or is it their itinerant, ironic, even reckless verve that can mark, hands-on, the current preoccupations of a literature in Maltese? And, after all, why not a Maltese literature in English?”

 

Entrance to these seminars is free and everyone is welcome to attend and take active part in the discussion.

See also: http://www.um.edu.mt/noticeboard/clandestini.doc


Your Eyes, My Eyes:

Images of Displacement

 

an exhibition of photography organised by

art students in their fourth year of studies

(Faculty of Education, University of Malta).

 

The exhibition will be inaugurated by the Hon. Minister

Dr. Louis Galea at St James Cavalier, Valletta

on Tuesday 18 May at 8 p.m.

 


 

Escape to what victory?

 

We celebrated World Refugee Day some weeks ago but what was there to celebrate about, asks Stanley Borg. Rather, we should rethink our sense of generosity, seeing the way we treat immigrants

 

You know it's summer when nights become hot, balmy and sticky, and days stretch into a rhetoric of lazy three-hour lunch breaks, plentiful pasta and hours spent reclining in a field of sweaty armpits under the warm Mediterranean sun. And as the rich make their quick escapes only to return weeks later sporting Corfu-tanned cleavages, we middle class can't get far enough from the madding crowd and waste our energies trying to whistle while the world burns. So we get to cook in our own juice, bare our skin, or lounge drowsily in T-shirts demoted from Saturday night to Sunday morning over the years. In the background, you can hear the fizz of cans opening, laughter with a tourist, the curtains flapping indoor conversation and the sense of decay and ruin buzzing off the streets like a cloud of flies.

Indeed, certain things spell out summer loud enough even for an illiterate. So you get the heat waves that help us see what everybody else is made of, the absence of newsworthy items on the telly, the loud and tanned Italians and the boatloads of illegal immigrants. Not again, you say. Haven't we given them refugee status and let them live happily ever after in our midst? Didn't we give them food and clothes and sent them back home to their families? Not again, I say. They keep coming just like evil spirits in some natural born thriller.

Let's grab a seat and flip through the newspapers, starting from Friday, June 4. On that day, 30 illegal immigrants were rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta from a boat that was drifting about 70 miles to the southeast of the island. They were all carrying empty water bottles and knapsacks containing all their worldly goods. The police established that the immigrants were Somalis, who until then, thought they had overcome the anti-domestic side of the seas and made it into the "promised land". But the promise was broken soon after. First of all they realised Malta was not Sicily. And secondly, they were herded to the Óal Far detention centre after receiving medical attention.

On June 22, the AFM were alerted to three boats in distress with illegal immigrants on board all of them. On June 26, 11 illegal Somali immigrants were picked up at Marsaxlokk, having arrived on a five-metre boat that was towed into the bay by an AFM patrol boat. Nine days later, another 37 illegal immigrants, most of them Somalis, were spotted on a rubber dinghy about 26 nautical miles to the east of Malta and rescued. Last Monday, a group of 17 men and eight women were brought in by a patrol boat after their vessel was intercepted some 50 miles southeast of Malta.

Between Wednesday and Thursday night, another 52 immigrants, including an two babies, were brought to Malta aboard patrol boats after their own boats ran out of fuel several days into their journey. The illegal immigrants claimed to be from Somalia.

But this is only a statistical fraction, given that since 2001, almost 2,300 immigrants arrived illegally in Malta, with the greatest number, 1,686, landing in 2002. In a wider context, these figures pale when compared to the thousands of illegal immigrants trying to sneak into Europe by facing unscrupulous smugglers, unseaworthy vessels and treacherous waters. Many more disappear without a trace in the attempt.

Sicilian fishermen always know when they set out to sea that the chances are they will come back with human remains, as well as fish, in their nets. Coastguards operating from the island of Lampedusa, a tiny, barren outcrop of the European Union closer to Libya than Sicily, have grown accustomed to grim discoveries aboard the rickety boats which transport the migrants from Libya and Tunisia. And the incident on Christmas Day, eight years ago, of at least 283 would-be immigrants and two crew members who drowned when a motor launch sunk in the Malta-Sicily channel keeps repeating itself.

In the widest context, these figures are just a drop in the ocean, stupid pun intended. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates in the beginning of 2003 stand at 20.6 million asylum seekers, refugees and others of concern. That means that roughly, one out of every 300 persons on earth is either a refugee, returned refugee, asylum seeker, internally displaced or a person of concern.

What are those? I imagine you asking, as you sit in your safe European home and your eyes take on a gentle, middle-distance patina to them. I don't blame you. Since language is an indicator of culture, confusion over the language of asylum reflects our confusion regarding the issue itself. Thus we use the terms "asylum seekers", "illegal immigrants", bla dokumenti (without documents), ifittxu kenn (looking for shelter) and "refugees" interchangeably, and, like the silver cutlery in a five-star restaurant, not knowing what they really mean and which to use.

First of all, according to the Geneva Convention of 1951, to which Malta is signatory, a refugee is a person who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country".

Yet this convention, despite being the main international instrument of refugee law, does not specifically address the issue of civilians fleeing conflict, though in recent years major refugee movements have resulted from civil wars, ethnic, tribal and religious violence.

Illegal immigrants are distinguished from refugees, since persons are not automatically considered as refugees and they must, so to say, make their case in the country where they seek the status of refugees. Until this happens, they are known as "asylum seekers" because they would be seeking asylum or refuge.

In Malta, since 2002, 77 people were recognised as refugees while 563 were granted humanitarian protection. Another 519 have had their applications refused, 36 withdrew theirs and 76 are still being processed. Those enjoying humanitarian protection, refugees and those who were freed after 18 months in detention live in two open centres - the Óal Far Refugee Open Centre and the Lyster Barracks, in homes managed by the Emigrants' Commission, while families live in the Peace Laboratory and minors at Dar is-Sliem. The rest are held in detention centres, in buildings which were previously used for military purposes and whose rooms have been converted in huge dormitories.

Unlucky punters? Rather lucky, I say, if you compare their fate with that of 220 Eritreans who were deported back to their country in September and October of 2002, despite the published reports on the situation of Eritrea being far from reassuring. And no heed was taken to the immigrant's consistent pleas that they would face unimaginable harm if they were to be returned home. And they did. So we all oohed and aahed when we saw the drawings of Eritreans being creatively tortured with the 'helicopter' and beaten relentlessly with sticks and stones.

No wonder Malta made the news by being included in the list of countries accused of human rights violations in Amnesty International's annual report. The latter goes on to condemn the state in which immigrants, including pregnant women, nursing mothers and children, were held. The report also quotes numerous complaints of people in some centres suffering severe overcrowding and inadequate sanitary arrangements: "in one centre people were housed in tents for months during the winter season, suffering cold temperatures and flooding with rainwater. Some inmates, including children, had little or no regular access to exercise in the open air". Misery lingers beyond the final word of this report.

At this point, you have the right to ask, "But what are they guilty of?" Nothing, I say. These people have technically done nothing wrong. Their only fault is that they entered the island illegally only to escape hardship and possible death. They are not criminals. It's just that the EU has very strict border policies and member countries, including Malta, must prove that their borders' controls are up to scratch. And Malta, like most developed countries and most western governments, perceives these uninvited guests as a threat and a huge economic burden. In reality, the typically Maltese temperament means we huff and puff a storm in a teacup, since we only host a very small number of these immigrants.

Uncannily enough, it is those we consider to be poorer countries that do the hosting. Amnesty International estimates show that Iran, itself a victim of war, shelters 1.3 million refugees and Pakistan 1.2 million.

But why do governments place immigration controls? I find your question impertinent and silly. The answer is so obvious, only fools would not know it. While nearly five billion people live in the poor countries of the world, only immigration controls stop them pouring into the rich world. As so often with common sense, this turns out to be uncommon nonsense. There have been poor and rich countries since countries began, but only controls on movement this century. Why did not all the poor swamp the rich countries then?

Silly you. It is not the poor who move, not those from either the poorest countries or the poorest areas in the countries where immigrants come from. The overwhelming majority stay at home. Even those who think about it are deterred by the costs, especially of moving to the notoriously dangerous, inhospitable and racist conditions of Europe. It is only the foolish vanity of Europeans which makes them think everyone wants to get in and get their jobs.

So why are there controls? you ask again. The issue is not about jobs but about the sovereignty that is embedded in the perceptions of the citizens. The population is drilled from an early age in xenophobia, socialised in a culture of hating those two main factions, the Gharab and the Suwed, and blaming them for whatever goes wrong and for undermining what it is to be "Maltese". Indeed, this is also barely concealed racism. We would like the immigrants to work during the day, and many do employ them illegally. Yet we don't want them to walk our streets at night or drive cars.

But the issue will soon be coming to a head because of Europe's rapidly declining birth rates. Coupled with an aging population, pension provision nationally and internationally is at risk of collapse. In 1950 there were 6.97 workers to every pensioner in Europe. By 2050 with no immigration, this ratio will have fallen to 1.81:1. To make pensions sustainable, there are two possible options: raise the age of retirement to around 75 - hardly an appealing prospect; or welcome enough immigrants to Europe every year in order to maintain the current ratio of 4.6 workers to every pensioner.

Difficult as it may be, the debate on immigration must move away from myths and focus on the actual costs and benefits. Before long, national governments, which until now have jealously guarded their sovereignty over immigration and asylum, will realise that it is more efficient and sensible to plan at a European level - a process aided by the decision in Nice to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting in these areas from 2004.

We call ourselves a generous people because we manage to give one million liri in charity during Christmas. Yet I do think we will have the real status of generosity when we will treat these immigrants like the humans they are and end their misery of being the ideal targets for today's pirates, the human traffickers. It is only then that we can really celebrate World Refugee Day.

A home away from home

When you manage to go beyond the colour factor, you will realise that there is really no difference between blacks and whites. Well maybe, there is one. We need more shoes than we can wear in a lifetime and an unhealthy amount of shoes which betrays the glamorous flash trash footballer's wife that hibernates inside us all. They need enough food, clothes and shoes so they can live comfortably as human beings.

Otherwise, no difference at all. As David Grillo shows me round the rooms in Dar is-Sliem, I watch the 18 residents living there engaged in activities such as cooking, laughing, sleeping, surfing on the internet, cleaning, studying and laughing. Some of them have received a package with traditional Ethiopian clothes, and are going round trying them and generally having a good time while remembering home. Most of them come from Ethiopia, Mali, Liberia, Iraq, Palestine, Chad, Eritrea and Congo. All of them didn't want to come to Malta - they either arrived here by mistake, due to bad weather, or because the human traffickers tricked them here. And most of them were at detention centres, which they still refer to as 'the prison'.

Then I sit with David Grillo, professional officer and psychotherapist, although he does not practice his profession at Dar is-Sliem because he considers the residents' emotional and psychological situation to be too vulnerable and sensitive. Later on, Josephine Leguesse, care coordinator, joins us.

Dar is-Sliem is a project set up by the Department for Family Welfare and the Jesuit Refugee Service, who give legal and other support, while the building where the residents live was offered by the Board of Trustees of the Conservatorio Vincenzo Bugeja. All the residents living at Dar is-Sliem are there because they are under 18 and unaccompanied. Of course, there is no way one can be sure that they are really minors or that they have no relative, so their word counts. So by these virtues, their temporary refugee status is automatic. And because they are under care, they are considered to be Maltese, meaning they have a right to health and education. In fact, five of them go to English lessons at TEFL schools, while two teachers from the Foundation for Educational Services come twice a week and give everyone English and basic computer terminology lessons. MCAST also help a lot, and treat all minor residents in the same way they treat their Maltese students. Yet, understandably enough, most residents are more preoccupied with their immediate future and basic necessities like health and food, rather than attending school.

Still, despite their education, residents cannot work. Some of them even get job offers, yet they cannot get a work permit, not even a temporary one. Thankfully, a lot of people help out, as do supermarkets, shoe and clothes stores, ISPs and banks.

Once they come of age, this situation changes completely. Residents lose their temporary refugee status and have to apply for a permanent one with their case being individually considered. In most cases, they are not granted this status, and until now, no one coming from Dar is-Sliem has ever been granted one. Until now, there is no policy on where the minors go after their residence here.

There are residents who have been at Dar is-Sliem for over two years and wish to be adopted by a Maltese family to live in a family environment again. In fact, one girl has already been adopted and there are another three possibilities at the moment. Moreover, there are also a number of contact families with whom residents have dinner with or go out, and volunteers who help out to make their life better while they wait.

If you want to help, phone Dar is-Sliem on 2147 2170 or 9985 7382.
 

This article appeared in the Weekender supplement of The Times (Saturday 10th July, 2004)

 

Moviment Graffitti

 

PO Box 24 Sliema

www.movimentgraffitti.org

 

Press Release 21.08.04

 

"Talks for Repatriation to Libya Should Stop"

 

With regard to media reports that the Maltese Government is conducting talks with neighboring governments, in particular Libya's, to repatriate illegal immigrants trying to enter Malta and whose last point of departure was that particular country, regardless of their nationality, Moviment Graffitti

called on the Government to end such talks with Libya.

 

Moviment Graffitti said

 

“In the light of Libya’s bad human rights record - as vividly shown by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International - we believe that repatriating asylum seekers to this country could jeopardize their chance of obtaining a needed refugee status. Asylum seekers that are being

persecuted for their political beliefs (such as those active for democracy in their country of origin) are unlikely to be granted political asylum in a country with a regime such as Libya's which lacks basic political freedoms.”

 

“With regard to allegations that at times asylum seekers destroy their documents, Moviment Graffitti wishes to highlight that asylum seekers coming from regions lacking basic rights are unlikely to obtain the necessary travel documents from the authorities."

 

"Moviment Graffitti believes that all asylum seekers arriving in Malta should have their case reviewed separately. This will ensure that bona fide asylum seekers will receive the protection they are entitled to."

 

"Bona fide asylum seekers are the victims of oppression, poverty and injustice, and should not be seen as criminals. Rather than carrying out international agreements based on the 'Fortress Europe' concept, Malta should carry out international pressure in order that asylum seekers are

entitled to basic human rights. Rather than closing its doors, Europe should tackle such issues through policies that aim to do away with North-South divide, which in the first instance is resulting in mass poverty in Southern regions."

 

Elaine Mizzi

f/ Moviment Graffitti

 


Moviment Graffitti

Stqarrija Stampa 21.08.04

 

"It-Tahditiet mal-Libja dwar ripatrijazzjoni ghandhom jieqfu"

 

F’dak li ghandu x’jaqsam ma rapporti fil-medja li l-Gvern Malti qieghed jithadded ma gvernijiet ta' pajjizi fil-vicinanza, partikularment ma’ dak Libjan, sabiex l-immigranti illegali li qeghdin jippruvaw jidhlu Malta jigu ripartiti lejn il-pajjiz li telqu minnu minghajr kunsiderazzjoni tan-nazzjonalita’ taghhom, il-Moviment Graffitti iheggeg lil Gvern Malti biex jwaqqaf dawn it-tahditiet.

 

Il-Moviment Graffitti qal:

 

"Meta wiehed jikkunsidra in-nuqqas tad-drittijiet umani fil-Libja - kif tixhed dokumentazzjoni ta’ organizzazzjonijiet internazzjonali ghad-drittijiet umani bhall- Amnesty International - ahna nemmnu li meta nies li jfittxu kenn jintbaghtu lura f'pajjiz bhall-Libja jista’ jnaqqas l-opportunità li jgibu status ta' refugjati. Nies li qed jfittxu kenn politiku (bhal dawk li huma attivi ghad-demokrazija f'art twelidhom) mhux ser jkollhom cans jiehdu protezzjoni minn pajjiz bhall- ibja li hu karatterizzat minn nuqqas ta’ libertà politika."

 

"Rigward allegazzjonijiet li nies li jfittxu l-kenn jeqirdu d-dokumenti taghhom, il-Moviment Graffitti jfakkar il-fatt li f’bosta pajjizi minn fejn jkunu gejjin dawn in-nies huwa difficli biex  l-awtoritajiet johorgu i-dokumenti mehtiega ghall-ivvjaggar."

 

"Il-Moviment jemmen li kull persuna tfittex il-kenn ghandu jkollha l-kas taghha rivedut separatament. Dan sabiex dawk li verament qed jfittxu il-kenn mill-ingustizzji u l-persekuzzjoni  jircievu l-protezzjoni li jixirqilhom."

 

"Nies li verament qed jfittxu il-kenn huma l-vittmi ta' oppressjoni, poverta u ingustizzji ma ghandhomx jkunu meqjusa bhala kriminali. Minflok ma thaddan il-kuncett ta' Fortizza Ewropeja, Malta ghanda tahdem internazzjonalment sabiex nies li  jfittxu l-kenn ikunu intitolati ghad-drittijiet umani bazici. Minflok ma taghlaq il-borduri, l-Ewropa ghandha thaddan politika li l-ghan taghha jkun li tintemm il-firda bejn pajjizi sinjuri u foqra. Hija din il-firda li qed twassal ghall-faqar tremend fir-regjuni tan-nofs in-nhar.”

 

Elaine Mizzi

f/ Moviment Graffitti

 

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